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Slavic Pagan 
World 



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Slavic Pagan World 

Compilation by Garry Green 

Welcome to Slavic Pagan World: Slavic Pagan Beliefs, Gods, 
Myths, Recipes, Magic, Spells, Divinations, Remedies, Songs. 


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Table of Content 


Slavic Pagan Beliefs 5 

Slavic neighbors. 5 

Dualism & The Origins of Slavic Belief 6 

The Elements 6 

Totems 7 

Creation Myths 8 

The World Tree. 10 

Origin of Witchcraft - a story 11 

Slavic pagan calendar and festivals 11 

A small dictionary of Slavic pagan gods & goddesses 15 

Slavic Ritual Recipes 20 

An Ancient Slavic Herbal 23 

Slavic Magick & Folk Medicine 29 

Divinations 34 

Remedies 39 

Slavic Pagan Holidays 45 

Slavic Gods & Goddesses 58 

Slavic Pagan Songs 82 

Organised pagan cult in Kievan Rus' 89 

Introduction 89 

Selected deities and concepts in Slavic religion 92 

Personification and anthropomorphisation 108 

"Core " concepts and gods in Slavonic cosmology 110 


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Evolution of the eastern Slavic beliefs 111 

Foreign influence on Slavic religion 112 

Conclusion 119 

Pagan ages in Poland 120 

Polish Supernatural Spirits 120 

Polish Folk Magic 125 

Polish Pagan Pantheon 131 


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Slavic Pagan Beliefs 


The Slavic peoples are not a "race". Like the Romance and Germanic 
peoples, they are related by area and culture, not so much by blood. 
Today there are thirteen different Slavic groups divided into three 
blocs, Eastern, Southern and Western. These include the Russians, 
Poles, Czechs, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Serbians,Croatians, 
Macedonians, Slovenians, Bulgarians, Kashubians, Albanians and 
Slovakians. Although the Lithuanians, Estonians and Latvians are of 
Baltic tribes, we are including some of their customs as they are 
similar to those of their 


Slavic neighbors. 


Slavic Runes were called "Runitsa", "Cherty y Rezy" ("Strokes and 
Cuts") and later, "Vlesovitsa". The Cyrillic system ("Cyrillitsa") was 
created in the 9th century by Sts. Cyril and Methodius based on a 
combination of the Greek alphabet and the Slavic Runes. Vlesovitsa 
continued to be used by the Pagans, while Cyrillitsa was used by the 
Christians. During the "war" against Paganism, the Christians 
destroyed each document that contained Runic instead of the Cyrillic 
writing, usually along with its owner. This was done so effectively that 
according to most sources, the ancient Slavic peoples had no written 
language at all. Therefore the nearly all records of the rituals, temples 
and idols/gods of the ancient Slavs come from the very people sent to 
destroy them. This, along with the fact that very little information on 
Slavic Mythology and Magick has been translated into English, makes 
studying the subject extremely difficult. 

Research must then be done through the study of folklore and folk 
customs. Fortunately, the medieval Slavic peasant did not embraced 
Christianity on any more than a surface level. This gave rise to what 
the Russians call dvoeverie (dvoh-ev-VAIR-ryeh) or "double-faith". 
According to one historian, Christianity so shallowly masked the 
surface of the true Pagan beliefs, many a peasant did not know the 
name of the man on the cross to whom he prayed. 


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Dualism & The Origins of Slavic Belief 

The origins of Slavic belief, like that of the rest of the world's, reside 
in animism and ancestral worship. The first two types of spirit were 
called the beregyni - female spirits that bring life and are the 
forerunners of the Rusalki, and Upyr - the spirits of death who 
eventually became our modern Vampire (Wampyr). From this original 
dualism sprang belief in all of the nature spirits, and eventually in the 
Rod and Rozhenitsa, the God and Goddess who imbue the newborn 
child with a soul and his/her fate. Although nearly all deities were 
originally ancestral, Rod and Rozhenitsa eventually pulled the Slavic 
mind out of that way of thinking and opened the doorway for the later 
"Indo-European" structure, although the original "Old European" 
mindset kept a stronger hold on the average Slav. 

Dualism permeates all of Slavic Pagan spirituality and actually seems 
to be the basis for most of it. This should not be confused with the 
dualistic good against evil beliefs of the Christian religion which have 
unfortunately seeped into the Slavic spirituality of today. It is a system 
of complimenting opposites such as darkness and light, winter and 
summer, female and male, cold and hot more similar to the yin/yang. 
The God-brothers Bialybog "white-god" and Czarnebog "black-god" 
who rule the sky and underworld respectively, are further illustrations 
of this polarity. Unfortunately, because of the introduction of 
Christianity, these two gods later became confused with Jehovah and 
Satan. 

Other examples of dualism are - the two Rozhinitsy, the mother and 
daughter fates, the spirits of midnight, Polunocnitsa and noon, 
Poludnitsa - both times seen to be equally as frightening, and the 
Zorya - Goddesses of dusk and dawn. 

The Elements 

The ancient Slavs had a deep sense of reverence for the four elements. 
Fire and Water were seen as sacred dualistic symbols on the horizontal 
or earthly plane. Earth and Sky were seen as a more vertical system of 
duality. High places such as mountaintops or treetops, especially birch, 
linden and oak, became sacred as meeting places the Sky father and 
the Earth mother. Where they met, they would join their procreative 
forces, usually in a flash of lightening and clap of thunder. 


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The winds were seen as the grandchildren of the God, Stribog. Water 
was refered to in mythology as the water of life and death and rivers 
were treated with respect lest they should drown you on your next 
visit. There are records of human, as well as other sacrifices being 
made to rivers such as the Dneiper and the Volga. Although many 
bodies of water had their own deities, most of them were ruled by 
spirits known as Rusalki or Vodanoi. Fire was personified by the god, 
Svarozhich and it was considered nearly criminal to spit into a fire. 
Mati Syra Zemlja or Mother Moist Earth, however, seems to have 
been given the greatest amount of respect. 

No one was allowed to strike Mati Syra Zemlja with a hoe, until the 
Spring Equinox, Maslenica, as she was considered pregnant until then. 
Earth was considered so sacred that oaths were sworn while holding a 
piece of her, sometimes in the mouth and ancient wedding vows were 
taken while swallowing a small clump of Earth or holding it on the 
head. The custom of asking the Earth's forgiveness before death was 
still being observed far into the 20th century and when a priest could 
not be found it was considered appropriate to confess sins to the 
Earth. 

Totems 


Like the native Americans, it seems that each Slavic tribe had a totem 
animal that the clan was usually named after. It was considered taboo 
to kill or eat this animal except for specific religious rituals. Each 
member of the tribe was thought to have an animal twin, and the death 
of that twin could cause the death of the tribe member. The World 
Tree 

The Slavs believed that the world tree was divided into three parts; 

The roots existed in the realm of the underworld, "Nav", and were 
where the zaltys lived. The main section existed in the mundane world 
and the uppermost branches reached into the land of the sky Gods. A 
magical bird was said to live in the branches. Although the Slavs did 
have Viking influence, the world tree beliefs seem to come more from 
the native Siberians. These Asian peoples each keep a tree, usually a 
linden, near their home and see it as a sort of "telephone" to the other 
realms. 


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Creation Myths 


A Slavic magi was recorded as saying (Russian 1071 CE - the 
transcript of Lavrentij): 

"We know how man was created: God was washing in the bathhouse 
and, after sweating, he wiped himself with a towel that he threw onto 
the ground; then Satan entered into dispute with God as to who should 
make man out of this towel; and God breathed a soul into him, 
therefore after death man's body returns to the soil and his spirit to 
God." 

A Christmas Carol from Galica explains: 

When there was in the beginning no world, 

Then there was neither heaven nor earth. 

Everywhere was a blue sea, 

And on the midst of the sea, a green plane-trees 
On the plane tree three doves, 

Three doves take counsel, 

Take counsel as how to create the world. 

"Let us plunge to the bottom of the sea. 

Let us gather fine sand; 

Let us scatter fine sand, 

That it may become for us black earth. 

Let us get golden rocks; 

Let us scatter golden rocks. 

Let there be for us a bright sky, 

A bright sky, a shining sun, 

A shining sun and bright moon, 

A bright moon, a bright morning star, 

A bright morning star and little starlets. 

-Drahomaniv p. 10 

In other recorded versions of this song, there are two doves not three, 
two oaks instead of a plane tree or blue stones instead of golden ones. 



Much later versions have God, St. Peter and St. Paul riding the doves 
as the actual creators. 

In the beginning, there were no earth and no people, only the 
primordial sea. Bielobog flew over the face of the waters in the shape 
of a swan and was lonely. Longing for someone to keep him company, 
he noticed his shadow, Chemobog and rejoiced. 

"Let us make land" said Bielobog. 

"Let us," said Chernobog, but where will we get the dirt?" 

"There is dirt under the water, go down and get some," answered 
Bielobog, but before you can reach it, you must say 'With Bielobog's 
power and mine'." 

The devil dived into the water, but said "With My Power", instead of 
what he was instructed to say. Twice he dived down and neither time 
did he reach the bottom. Finally, the third time he said "With 
Bielobog's Power and Mine" and he reached the dirt. Scraping some 
up with his nails, he brought it to the surface but hid a grain of dirt in 
his mouth in order to have his own land. 

God then took the dirt from him and scattered it upon the water. The 
dirt became dry land and began to grow. Of course, the land in 
Chernobog's mouth also began to grow and his mouth began to swell. 
Chernobog was forced to spit and spit to rid himself of all the earth 
and where he spit, mountains were formed. 

Angered that he was cheated out of his own land, he waited for 
Bielobog to fall asleep. As soon as the god was sleeping peacefully, 
Czernobog lifted him up to throw him in the water. In each direction 
he went, but the land had grown so much, he could not reach the 
ocean. When Bielobog awoke, Czernobog said "Look how much the 
land has grown, we should bless it." 

...And Bielobog said slyly, "I blessed it last night, in all four 
directions, when you tried to throw me in the water." 

This greatly angered Czernobog who stormed off to get away from 
Bielobog once and for all. In the meantime, the earth would not stop 
growing. This made Bielobog very nervous as the Heavens could no 
longer cover it all, so he sent an expedition to ask Czernobog how to 
make it stop. 


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Czernobog had since created a goat. When the expedition saw the 
great god Czernobog riding astride a goat, they couldn't stop laughing. 
This angered the god and he refused to speak to them. Bielobog then 
created a bee, and sent the bee to spy on Czernobog. 

The bee quietly alit upon Czernobog's shoulder and waited. Soon, she 
heard him say to the goat "What a stupid god! He doesn't even know 
that all he has to do is take a stick, make a cross to the four directions 
and say 'That is enough earth’. Instead he wonders what to do." 

Hearing this, the bee buzzed off in excitement. Knowing that he’d been 
heard, Czernobog yelled after the bee, "Whoever sent you, Let him eat 
your excrement!". 

The bee went directly to Bielobog and said "He said All you need to 
do is make a cross to the four directions and say 'That is enough earth.' 
And to me he said 'let whomever sent you eat your excrement’. 

So god stopped the earth from growing and than said to the bee "Then 
forever after, let there be no excrement sweeter than yours." 

This myth is a combination of myths from Bulgarian and Ukranian 
sources. Although the versions of these myths use God and Satanail as 
the dual creators, Slavic scholars agree that the myth is a later form of 
the original dualism of Czernobog and Bielobog. Because of this I 
have replaced the names. 

The World Tree. 

Some Slavs believed that the Earth was an Island floating in water 
that the sun was immersed in every evening. At the center of this 
Island stood the world tree or mountain. The roots of this tree extended 
deep into the underworld and the branches reached high up into the 
realm of the sky gods, Irij. 

Nav was the underworld, realm of the dead from whence it gets its 
name. Weles/Wolos, the God of cattle and wealth and Lada, Goddess 
of springtime were also said to reside here. This is not really 
surprising, considering that most cthonic deities, such as Pluto, Saturn 
and Ops were also associated with wealth and that the crops are 
pushed upward from inside the Earth. Also, Lada would return from 
the underworld in the spring, much like Kore, Persephone and Ostara 
of the Teutons did. 


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Origin of Witchcraft - a story 


Long ago, when the world was still fairly new, a young woman 
ventured into the woods to pick mushrooms. In no time at all, the skies 
opened up upon her and narrowly escaping the rain, she ran beneath a 
tree, removed all of her clothing, and bundled them up in her bag so 
they would not get wet. After some time, the rain stopped and the 
woman resumed her mushroom picking. Weles, Horned God of the 
forest happened upon her, and asked her what great magick she knew 
in order to have kept dry during the storm. 

"If you show me the secret to your magick, I will show you how I kept 
dry." she said. Being somewhat easily tempted by a pretty face, Weles 
proceeded to teach her all of his magickal secrets. After he was done, 
she told him how she had removed her clothing and hid under a tree. 

Knowing that he had been tricked, but had no one but himself to 
blame, Weles ran off in a rage, and thus, the first Witch came into 
being 

Slavic pagan calendar and festivals 


Slavic myths were cyclical, repeating every year over a series of 
festivites that followed changes of nature and seasons. Thus, to 
understand their mythology, it is important to understand their concept 
of calendar. On the basis of archeological and folklore remains, it is 
possible to reconstruct some elements of pre-Christian calendar, 
particularly major feastivals. 


The year was apparently lunar, and began on the first day of March, 
similar to other Indo-European cultures whose old calendar systems 
are better known to us. The names for the last night of old year and the 
first day of new year are reconstructed as Velja Noc/Vclik Dan (Great 
Night/Great Day). After Christianization, these names were probably 
passed onto Easter. In Slavic countries belonging to Orthodox 
Churches, Easter is known as Velik Dan/Great Day, whilst amongst 
Catholic Slavs, it is kn own as Velika Noc/Great Night. The names 
blend nicely with the translation of the Greek Megale Hemera, Great 


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Week, the Christian term for the week in which Easter falls. In pagan 
times, however, this was a holiday probably quite like Halloween. 
Certain people (shamans) donned grotesque masks and coats of sheep 
wool, roaming around the villages, as during the Great Night, it was 
believed, spirits of dead ancestors travelled across the land, entering 
villages and houses to celebrate the new year with their living 
relatives. Consequently, the deity of the last day of the year was 
probably Veles, god of Underworld. 



The spring fertility festival of Maslenitsa, rooted in pagan times and 
involving the burning of a straw effigy is still celebrated by Slavs all 
over the world. 


There was a large spring festival dedicated to Jarilo, god of vegetation 
and fertility. Processions of young men or girls used to go round 
villages on this day, carrying green branches or flowers as symbols of 
new life. They would travel from home to home, reciting certain songs 
and bless each household with traditional fertility rites. The leader of 
procession, usually riding on horse, would be identified with Jarilo. 
The custom of creation of pisanki or decorated eggs, also symbols of 


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new life, was another tradition associated with this feast, which was 
later passed on Christian Easter. 


The summer solstice festival is known today variously as Ivanje, 
Kupala or Kries. It was celebrated pretty much as a huge wedding, 
and, according to some indications from historical sources, in pagan 
times likely followed by a general orgy. There was a lot of eating and 
drinking on the night before, large bonfires (in Slavic - Kres) were lit, 
and youngsters were coupling and dancing in circles, or jumped across 
fires. Young girls made wreaths from flowers and fern (which 
apparently was a sacred plant for this celebration), tossed them into 
rivers, and on the basis of how and where they floated, foretold each 
other how they would get married. Ritual bathing on this night was 
also very important; hence the name of Kupala (from kupati = to 
bathe), which probably fit nicely with folk translation of the future 
patron saint the Church installed for this festival, John the Baptist. 
Overall, the whole festivity probably celebrated a divine wedding of 
fertility god, associated with growth of plants for harvest. 


In the middle of summer, there was a festival associated with thunder- 
god Perun, in post-Christian times transformed into a very important 
festival of Saint Elijah. It was considered the holiest time of the year, 
and there are some indications from historic sources that it involved 
human sacrifices. The harvest probably began afterwards. 


It is unclear when exactly the end of harvest was celebrated, but 
historic records mention interesting tradition associated with it that 
was celebrated at Svantevit temple on the island of Ruyana (present- 
day Rugen), a survived through later folklore. People would gather in 
front of the temple, where priests would place a huge wheat cake, 
almost the size of a man. The high priest would stand behind the cake 
and ask the masses if they saw him. Whatever their answer was, the 
priest would then plead that the next year, people could not see him 
behind the ritual cake; i.e., he alluded that the next year's harvest 
would be even more bountiful. 


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There probably also was an important festival around winter solstice, 
which later became associated with Christmas. Consequently, in many 
Slavic countries, Christmas is called Bozhich, which simply means 
little god. While this name fits very nicely with the Christian idea of 
Christmas, the name is likelyof pagan origin; it indicated the birth of a 
young and new god of Sun to the old and weakened solar deity during 
the longest night of the year. The old Sun god was identified as 
Svarog, and his son, the young and new Sun, as Dazhbog. An 
alternative (or perhaps the original) name for this festival was 
Korochun. 


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A small dictionary of Slavic pagan gods & 
goddesses 


BABA YAGA - Goddess of death and regeneration. Baba Yaga can 
appear as either an old crone or a beautiful young woman. Baba Yaga 
lives in darkness and eats people, but she has the gift of prophecy as 
well. 


BELOBOG Also BELBOG, BELUN - The White God, the god of the 
day, the god of Heaven, the bringer of good luck, the god of heavenly 
light, the god of happiness and peace, the judge who rewards good and 
punishes evil. A wise old man with a long beard dressed in white, 
Belobog appears only during the day. 


CHERNOBOG - The Black God, the god of night, the god of Hell, 
the bringer of evil luck, the god of infernal darkness, the opposite of 
Belobog in every way. Chernobog and Belogbog are personifications 
of opposing principles of good and evil, light and dark, chaos and 
order. 


DAZHBOG - A personification of the sun. Each morning Dazhbog 
mounts a diamond chariot and drives forth from his golden palace in 
the east, starting the day as a young man and ending the day as a dying 
old man. His attendants are two virgins, the morning and evening 
stars; a wise old counsellor, the moon; seven judges, the planets; and 
seven messengers, the comets. Dazhbog ages with the year and takes 
on a different aspect with each season. Among other seasonal aspects, 
he was worshipped during the harvest as Sventovit, whose name 
means "Holy Light," and in winter as Svarozhich, the newborn winter 
sun. Also god of blessings and son of Svarog. 


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DOMOVOI - The protector of the house. Every home had its own 
domovoe who dwelled behind the oven and who might abandon the 
house if he was not properly honored. The Domovois protected not 
only the human inhabitants of the house but their herds and household 
animals as well. In some areas the Slavs believed that prosperity and 
well-being could not exist in a new house until the head of the family 
died and became its guadian spirit. 


Iarilo - minor god of male sexual potency; associated with semik. 


Khors - sun god. 


Koliada - spirit of the winter solstice. 


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KUPULA - A goddess of water, sorcery and herbal lore. Kuplula 
personifies the magical and spiritaul power inherent in water, and 
Kupula's devotees worshipped her with ritual baths and offerings of 
flowers cast upon water. Since fire as well as water has powers of 
purification, her worshippers also danced aroudn and leaped over huge 
bonfires. Frequently her effigy was burned or cast into pools of water. 
Kupula's cult preserved an extensive lore of magical plants and herbs 
which gave men the power to read minds, control evil spirits, find 
hidden treasures, and win the love of beautiful women. Spirit of the 
summer solstice, associated with Kupalo’s Day (June 24). 


Lada, Lado - variously thought to be the mother of Lei' and Polel', a 
god of the underworld and marriage, or not a deity at all; the goddess 
of spring and mother of Lelia. 


Lei' - possibly the son of Lada and brother of Polel'. 


Lelia - possibly the daughter of Lada. 


MATI SYRA ZEMLIA Not a name, but a title which means Moist 
Mother Earth. An earth goddess. The most ancient and possibly the 
most important of the Slavic gods. Ever fruitful and powerful, Mati 
Syra Zemlia was worshipped well into the twentieth century. Mother 
Earth was an oracle whom anyone could consult without any need for 
a priest or shaman as a go-between. The Slavs felt the profoundest 
respect for Mother Earth. Peasants settled property disputes by 
appealing to Mother Earth to witness the truth of their claims, and 
oaths were sworn in her name. Personification of the earth as a female 
deity. 


MOKOSH Also MOKYSHA, MOKUSH - The goddess who both 
gives and takes life, the spinner of the thread of life, the giver of the 
water of life. Mokosh later became 


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PARASKEVA-PIATNITSA, a goddess of spinning, water, fertility, 
health with marriage. Only female deity included among Vladimir's 
idols, possibly associated with Moist Mother Earth; associated with 
fertility, bounty, mositure, women's work, the protection of maidens, 
October 28 (Saint Paraskeva-Friday) . 


PERUN Also PIORUN, PYERUIM, PERON - Lord of the Whole 
World." God of thunder, justice, and war, chief adversary of the Black 
God. Perun's weapons are thunderbolts. The Slavs made sacrifices of 
goats and bulls to Perun in a grove with an oak tree. With the coming 
of Chritianity, Perun merged with St. Elijah, who is portrayed in icons 
flying across the sky in a chariot. Chief of the pagan gods, god of 
thunder and lightning and of war; associated with July 20 (Elijah the 
Prophet). 


Polel' - possibly the son of Lada and brother of Lei'. 


Rod - minor god of birth; early primary god of the east Slavs, a 
creater and god of fertility and light, associated with the winter solstice 
and July 20, who was replaced by Perun shortly before the tenth 
century. 


Rozhanitsy - minor goddess of birth; associated with the harvest 
(September 9). 


Simargl - a winged dog, guardian of seed and new shoots; associated 
with rusal’naia week. 


Stribog - possibly god of wind, storm, and destruction. 


Svarog - sun god, father of Dazhbog, divine smith. 


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Svarozhichi - sons of Svarog. 


Sviatovit - possibly an important god of the west Slavs, god of light, 
bounty, and divination regarding the harvest. 


VED'MA - A demon goddess who flies over the clouds and mountains 
on a broom or rake. Ved'ma causes storms, keeps the water of life and 
death, and knows the magical properties of plants. Ved'ma can be 
young and beautiful or old and ugly as she pleases. 


VELES Also VOLOS - Veles was worshipped in two aspects. As 
Veles he is god of death and the underworld, god of music, and a 
sorcerer. As Volos he is god of cattle wealth and commerce. The 
worship of Veles vanished with the coming of Christianity, but the 
worship of Volos survived as late as the eighteenth century. God of 
cattle (skotnyi bog), commerce and possibly the dead, associated with 
the winter solstice and spring equinox. 


ZORIA Also ZARIA - The heavenly bride, goddess of beauty and 
morning. At down her worshippers greeted her as "the brightest 
maiden, pure, sublime, honorable." 


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Slavic Ritual Recipes 


Traditionally, ritual libation would have consisted of mead. There is 
currently a very good commercial Polish mead available called "Piast". 
It is produced and bottled in Poland and imported by Adamba Imports, 
Brooklyn, NY 11237.This brand of mead is SO Pagan that the back of 
the bottle boasts "Piast, a 9th century Polish prince quaffed his honey 
wine from the horn of a bison, the same way his forbears paid homage 
to their ancient god, Swiatowid." - the strange thing is that...a 9th 
century prince would have been VERY Pagan as Poland was not 
Christianized until the year 966....the TENTH century. 

Blini 

Blini is not only a food appropriate for ritual, it is a traditional food 
offered to the dead. 

Scald 2 cups milk. When it has cooled somewhat, stir in 1 package 
yeast, 1 Tbsp sugar and 1 1/2 cups flour. Let this rise, covered, in a 
warm place for 1 hour, beat 3 egg yolks with ltsp salt, 1 Tbsp melted 
butter and 1/2 cup flour. Stir this into the sponge. Beat 3 eggwhites 
until stiff and fold them into the batter. Cook small pancakes in melted 
butter. Serve with sour cream and maybe some caviar. 

Pierogi 

These little moon-shaped dumplings are perfect for during and/or after 
any circle work. 

mix 1 egg, 1 tbsp oil, a pinch of salt and enough flour to make a good 
pasta dough. Roll this out thin (best to use a pasta maker) and using a 
floured, upturned glass, cut circles out of the dough. Place a small 
amount of filling in the center of the circle and fold over, wetting the 
edge to seal. Boil in salted water until tender. You may then fry them 
in butter with sliced onions. Serve with sour cream. 


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Pierogi Fillings: 

Seasoned Mashed potatoes 

Seasoned mashed potatoes & sauer kraut 

Seasoned farmer's cheese 

Finely chopped mushrooms sauteed with onion 

Ground meat mixed with 1 raw egg & some dillweed. 


Other Recipes 

Not specifically magickal, but any Slavic ritual should be followed by 
a good deal of eating.... 

Glumpki - Stuffed Cabbage 

Core 2 or 3 heads of cabbage and immerse each one in boiling water 
for about 5 minutes each. Peel off all the larger leaves and cut out the 
stalky parts at the bottoms. Set aside. 

Mix together: lib ground beef, 1 lb ground pork, 1 2 cups cooked long 
grain rice (al dente), 1 large chopped onion, salt, pepper and a little oil. 

In each cabbage leaf place about 2 Tbsps of the meat mixture and roll 
up - first bring in the sides of the leaf then roll. Do this to all the meat 
mixture. 

Line the bottom of a large covered casserole with some of the extra 
cabbage leaves. Place the cabbage bundles tightly together in the pot 
and cover with a mixture of 1 large can crushed tomatoes and 2 Tbsp 
cider vinegar. You may want to add tomato juice to be sure all the 
cabbage bundles are kept wet during cooking. Cover with a layer of 
extra cabbage leaves and either bake for 1 hr or cook atop the stove for 
50 minutes. 


Latkas - Potato Pancakes 

Peel and grate 1 lb of russet potatoes, mix with one egg, 1/2 to cup 
flower, salt, pepper and 1 or 2 chopped scallions. 


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Heat a mixture of butter and oil in a frying pan. fry the batter in small, 
flattened amounts. The latkas should be brown and crispy. Serve with 
sour cream. 

You can cheat by using left over mashed potatoes instead of grated 
fresh ones. It still tastes pretty good. 

Mushroom Kasha 

mix 1 cup kasha (buckwheat groats) with 1 egg and 1/3 cup sliced, 
sauteed mushrooms. Stir-fry in 2 Tbsp butter till the egg is cooked and 
buckwheat is separated. Add 2 cups boiling chicken broth, salt & 
pepper and simmer, covered, for ten minutes. Fluff with fork before 
serving. 


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An Ancient Slavic Herbal 


Angelica - Archangelica angelica 

Magickal Uses: "In the event of some kind of troublesome misfortune, 
gather the root with care during the descent of the lion's cub and hang 
it around your neck. It will drive away cares and cause a merry heart." 
- Syrenius (1540 - 1611) 

Medicinal Uses: In Russian, the seeds were made into a tea called 
"angelic water". It was used for stomach ailments and as an 
antispasmodic. An infusion of the roots and rootstocks was more often 
used. It taken to treat hysteria, insomnia, epilepsy, all respiratory 
ailments, rheumatism and lower back pain, to eliminate runny noses 
and hangovers and to expel intestinal worms. A syrup made of the 
roots boiled in honey or wine was said to draw out toxins. 


Arnica - Arnica Montana 

Medicinal Uses: A decoction of the flowers or rootstock was used to 
treat stomach problems resulting from poor digestion, including ulcers, 
spasms and cramps. It was also effectively used for podagra, epilepsy, 
colds, influenza and bladder problems. Arnica was also given to 
control uterine hemorrhaging during childbirth. 

Unknown to most of the Slavic world, Arnica was mostly used in 
Ukraine, Belarus and the Karpatskie Mountains. 


Barberry - Berberis vulgaris 

Medicinal Uses: A 16th century Russian manuscript describes 
Barberry’s ability to cure diseases that cause infertility in women. The 
Princess Xenia of Pskov supposedly used this extract to help her 
conceive . A decoction of the root is also used as a remedy for liver 
and gallbladder ailments including gallstones and jaundice as well as 
colitas and urinary tract infections. 


23 



Barley - Hordeum vulgare 

Medicinal Uses: Barley water was used to treat bladder and urinary 
tract disease, kidney stones, hemorrhoids, reduce swelling and tumors 
and treat jaundice. A Barley malt bath was used to treat just about any 
skin ailment imaginable including pimples, psoriasis and baldness. 

Basil, Sweet - Ocimum basilicum 

Medicinal Uses: It’s smell alone was thought to stop a runny nose. It 
was taken internally to bring dreams to those having trouble sleeping 
and as a diuretic. 


Beet - Beta vulgaris 

Magical Uses: Beet leaves were wrapped around eggs and boiled to 
give them the red color used to denote beauty, prosperity and as a 
symbol of the Sun-God. 

Medicinal Uses: Honey and vinegar were added to a tea made of 
grated beets and used as a gargling agent for sore throats and colds. 
Beet leaves were applied to the head to draw out pain. Warm beet juice 
was dropped into the ear to stop buzzing and was boiled with sage as a 
cold and sore-throat remedy. 


Belladonna -Atropa belladonna 

Magickal Uses: Found chiefly in the Carpathian region of Poland, his 
plant was always associated with Witches and evil. It is hallucinogenic 
and listed as an ingredient in most old flying ointment recipes, but 
highly toxic and very deadly. 


Bellflower - Campanula trachelium 

Magickal Uses: In Poland, children suffering from consumption were 
bathed in the herb. If their skin darkened during the bath, it was taken 
as a sign that they would live. If their skin did not darken, it meant 
they would die. 

Medicinal Uses: The flowers were boiled in a covered pot then left to 
steep. The resultant tea was used as a wash for ear problems. The roots 


24 



of this plant were steeped in strong liquor for several hours. This was 
then taken in small quantities for stomach pains. 


Betony - Betonica officinalis 

Medical Uses: An infusion or decoction of its aerial parts was used for 
various lung and bronchial conditions including asthma and 
tuberculosis and to improve appetite. It is sometimes used as a nose- 
drop for arthritis. 


Birch, white - Betula alba 

Medical Uses: An infusion of fresh birch leaves may be used to treat 
edema, various bladder and kidney ailments and poor circulation. It is 
also said to prevent the formation of kidney stones. Birch sap is used 
to strengthen the immune system and as a general tonic. It is also used 
for nearly all skin ailments including dandruff and to speed hair 
growth. Birch tar is wonderful for skin diseases and to help wounds 
heal. An infusion of birch buds is used to remove skin spots. 

Folklore: The birch is considered a feminine tree and is often 
associated with the rusalki and wily. The spirits of dead ancestors 
often take residence within the birch. The great world tree, according 
to many Slavic traditions, is a white birch. 


Bryony, white - Bryonia alba 

Magickal Uses: It was believed that anyone who dug up this herb 
would destroy their own happiness. For this reason, many folks fenced 
in any bryony plants they found in their yard. For Witches, this plant 
was said to grow anywhere, even in pots without dirt. Witches 
supposedly kept bryony hidden on their person. 

Medicinal Uses: The boiled root was used to heal any wound on a 
horse's hoof. 


Burnet Saxifrage - Pimpinella saxifrage 

Medical Uses: Steeped in strong alcohol, the roots and leaves were an 
effective treatment for dysentary and cholera (perhaps the two sisters 
in the following story?): 


25 



Magickal Uses: This plant was called "the herb which breaks" because 
the touch of this plant was said to break up metal by its touch alone. 

To gather it, mown grass and crops were thrown into water and the 
saxifrage would float to the top. This herb was considered most 
powerful when gathered at Kupalo. 


Folklore: {Poland) There were once three scythe wielding goddesses 
who dealt death and did so quite generously. One of these sisters hurt 
her leg and could not keep up with the others. No matter how much 
she begged for them to wait, they were too obsessed with their blood 
lust to take any pity upon her and they left her in their dust. Angered 
by the abandonment of her sisters, the lame death crone limped 
through the villages calling to the people, "Eat and drink saxifrage and 
you will be safe from death!" The people listened and the saxifrage 
stayed the scythes of her two sisters. 

The two sisters were enraged and fell upon their lame sister in a fury. 
The lame sister used her scythe to block them, and one sister fell upon 
it dying. In the tumult, the second sister fell upon the other's scythe, 
leaving only one death, Marzana, for whom there is no remedy. 


Carraway - Carum carvi 

Magickal Uses: A pan of carraway seed in boiling water was placed 
beneath the crib of any child who was thought to be plagued by 
demons. 

Medicinal Uses: Chewed carraway seeds were smeared upon the face 
and hands upon going to sleep to protect one from mosquitos. 


Meadowsweet - Filipendula ulmaria 

Medicinal Uses: A decoction of the flowers and shredded roots was 
used to treat nervous disorders such as hysteria and neurosis, 
hypertension and difficulties urinating. A decoction of the flowers and 
leaves is used for colds and other nasal and respiratory ailments. It was 
also used for ulcers, and other stomach problems and to treat 
inflamation of the kidneys or liver. 


Folklore: ( Russia ) Kudryash was the strongest and bravest knight in 


26 



the village, but one day he awoke with an awful terror of his own 
death. He was so afraid, he could no longer fight. When a band of 
thieves began to threaten the village and the people looked toward him 
for help, Kudryash became filled with shame. He wandered down to 
the river intent on drowning himself when who should arise, but a 
beautiful water maiden who gave him a garland of meadowsweet 
flowers. She told him to wear it in battle and he would not be harmed. 
He later wore the garland fearlessly into battle against the thieves and 
easily defeated them. Kudryash was proclaimed hero of the village and 
his courage was celebrated throughout the land. 


Mug wort - Artemisia vulgaris 

Magickal Uses: Mugwort picked from 9 different fields was a 
powerful amulet against infertility in women. Girls would stare at the 
Kupalo bonfire through a wreath of mugwort to strengthen the eyes. 
Effective protection against evil, mugwort was often carried or tucked 
into the eaves to protect a home from unclean spirits. 

Purple Looststrife - 

Magickal Uses: This plant was considered most powerful when 
gathered at Kupalo. One could control demons and troublesome spirits 
with the root if the following words were chanted over it before a 
sacred image: 

Tear-weed, tear-weed 

You have wept long and much but gained little. 

May your tears not drown the open field 
Nor your cries sound over the deep blue sea. 

Frighten off the demons and the witches! 

If they do not submit to you, then drown them in your tears! 

If they run from your glance, throw them over cliffs or into pits! 

May my words be firm and strong for hundreds of years! 

Willow, white - Salix alba 

Magickal Uses: The willow is a symbol of fertility. Every Egorij day, 
the cattle and women are whipped with pussy willow branches to 
ensure their ability to bear offspring. Afterward, the branches are 
thrown into the fields to ensure a good harvest. A pussy-willow bud 
was eaten to guarantee health and prosperity for the coming year. 


27 



Medicinal Uses: Willow bark was used for fever, cough, headache, 
rheumatism, diarrhea, pain-relief...after all...it is aspirin. A poultice of 
the bark was placed on puss-filled wounds or taken internally as a tea. 


Folklore: (Poland) A cruel farmer was angered by the arrival of his 
cat's litter. Feeling he already had too many mouths to feed, he stuffed 
the kittens in a sack and threw them into the river to drown. The 
distraught mother sat on the riverbank mewling and crying for her 
little ones. A nearby willow tree heard her cries and took pity upon 
her. The tree dipped her branches into the water and pulled the sack 
out, but alas, most of the kittens had drowned. Since that time, willows 
everywhere burst into kittenlike bud each spring in honor of the 
mother cat and her drowned children. 


Wormwood - Artemisia absinthium 

Magickal Uses: Wormwood was carried to protect one from the 
Rusalki. 

Medicinal Uses: As a tea, wormwood was used to increase appetite 
and treat stomach disorders. Dogs were bathed in wormwood to kill 
fleas and bouquets of the herb were hung in homes and barns as an 
insect repellant. 

Folklore: ( Russia ) A group of girls was returning from picking herbs 
in the forest when they accidentally happened upon the rusalki. The 
water women asked them "What do you have there?" 

"Wormwood, yes, wormwood" they all answered except for one very 
young inexperienced girl who laughed and said "not I, I picked 
meadowsweet!". The rusalki all fell upon her and she was never seen 
again. 


28 



Slavic Magick & Folk Medicine 


Spells 


• Prosperity and Domestic Tranquility 

To Attract a Domovoi: Go outside of your home wearing your finest 
clothing and say aloud "Dedushka Dobrokhot, Please come into my 
house and tend the flocks." 


To rid yourself of a rival Domovoi: Sometimes a home may have one 
too many Domoviki. In this case poltergeist-like activity may occur. 
Beat the walls of your home with a broom shouting "Grandfather 
Domovoi, help me chase away this intruder." 


•To Gain Magic kal Knowledge 

Calling a Leshii: Cut down an Aspen tree so that it's top falls facing 
the East. Bend over and look through your legs saying "Leshi, Forest 
Lord, Come to me now; not as a grey wolf, not as a black raven, not as 
a flaming fir tree, but as a man." 

The leshii will teach the arts of magick to any whom he befriends, 
(from Ivanits - Russian Folk Lore) 

• For Love 

a zagorovui, or runespell, to capture the one you love: 

In the ocean sea, on the island of Buyan, there live three brothers, three 
winds: the first Northern, the second Eastern and the third Western. 
Waft, O winds, bring on (lover's name) sorrow and dreariness so that 
without me s/he may not be able to spend a day nor pass an hour! 

and yet another... 

I, (conjuror's name), stand still, uttering a blessing. 

I go from the room to the door, from the courtyard to the gates. 


29 



I go out into the open field to the Eastern side. On the Eastern side 
stands an izba (cottage). In the middle of the izba lies a plank, under 
the plank is the longing. 


The longing weeps. The longing sobs, waiting to get at the white light. 
The white light, the fair sun, waits, enjoys itself, and rejoices. 

So may s/he wait, longing to get to me, and having done so, may he 
enjoy himself and rejoice! And without me let it not be possible for 
him to live, nor to be, nor to eat, nor to drink; neither by the morning 
dawn, nor by the evening glow. 


As a fish without water, as a babe without its mother, without its 
mother's milk, cannot live, so may s/he, without me, not be able to 
live, nor to be, nor to eat, nor to drink, nor by the evening glow; 
neither every day, not at mid-day, nor under the many stars, nor 
together with the stormy winds. Neither under the sun by day, nor 
under the moon by night. 

Plunge thyself, O longing, gnaw thy way, O longing, into his/her 
breast, into his/her heart; grow and increase in all his/her veins, in all 
his bones, with pain and thirst for me! 

- from "Songs of the Russian People", William Ralston 

• For Protection 


Prayer: Recite the following prayer to Zorya: 

Oh Virgin, unsheath your father's sacred sword. 

Take up the breastplate of your ancestors. 

Take up your powerful helmet. 

Bring forth your steed of black. 

Fly forth to the open field, 

There, where the great army with countless weapons is found. 
Oh, Virgin, cover me with your veil. 

Protect me against the power of the enemy 


30 



Against guns and arrows, warriors and weapons; 
Weapons of wood, of bone, of copper, of iron and steel. 

(from The New Larousse Encyc. of Mythology) 

• For Happiness 

Recite the following to a flame: 


"Dear Father, tsar fire, 

Be gentle and kind to me. 

Burn away all my aches & pains, tears & worries." 

•To Have Lost Animals Return 

The following letter is written on three pieces of birchbark: 

I am writing to the forest tsar and forest tsaritsa with their small 
children; to the earth tsar and earth tsaritsa with their small children; to 
the water tsar and water tsartitsa with their small children. I inform 
you that (name of owner inserted) has lost a (color mentioned) horse 
(or cow, or other animal - distinctive marks should be given). If you 
have it send it back without delaying an hour, a minute, a second. If 
you do not comply with my wish, I shall pray against you to the great 
God, Weles and tsaritsa Alexandra. 

One letter is fastened to a tree in the forest, the second buried in the 
earth and the third thrown with a stone into water. After this, the lost 
animal is supposed to return by itself. 

•To Bring the Rain 


If rain was needed a virgin girl was chose, one not yet old enough to 
conceive whose mother was no longer able to conceive. Naked, yet 
draped all over with flowers, she would whirl around and around while 


31 



singing invocations to Perun. All the while she would be "watered" by 
the surrounding women. 


• To Win a Fist Fight 


Recite while holding a stone from a gravesite: 

"I summon to my aid the forest spirits from the forest and the water 
spirits from the water: and you, forest spirits of the forest, water spirits 
of the water, come to my aid against my opponent fist-fighter, and 
enable me to defeat my opponent fist-fighter with my own fists. And 
you, forest spirits from the forest and water spirits of the water, take 
the rock from this corpse and place it on the hands, or head, or feet of 
my opponent fist-fighter...and just as this dead man is heavy from the 
earth and rock, so too may my opponent fist-fighter be heavy to lift his 
hand against me, and may my opponent become weak in the arms and 
the legs, and blind in the eyes from my verdict until the time I remove 
it." 

•To Guard against Slander 
A zagovorui, or runespell, against Slander: 

O righteous Sun! Do thou in my foes, my rivals, my opposers, in the 
powers that be, and public officials, and in all people of good mouth 
and heart, parch up evil thoughts and deeds, so that they may not rise 
up, may not utter words baleful for me! 

• Spoiling 

"Spoiling" is a Slavic term for cursing. The following spells are posted 
here only for research purposes: 


•To Cause One to Wither 

Dirt from the victim’s footprint was collected and placed in a little bag, 
or a lock of the victim's hair was coated with clay. Either of these were 
hung inside the chimney. As the dirt or clay dried out, so, supposedly, 
did the victim. 


32 



To Cause Death 


Bareheaded and wearing only an undergarment, the magick user would 
circle the property of his or her victim's yard with a burning candle. 

The candle was then broken in two and turned upside-down. 

Eggs (tenned "white swans" for this purpose) and/or bread were 
brought to the gravesite of a known criminal in exchange for some soil 
from their grave which was removed while saying "As this corpse has 
died unrepentant, so may you too die, unrepentant." 


33 



Divinations 


Tatyana curiously gazes 
At the prophetic waxen mold, 

All eager in its wondrous mazes 
A wonderous future to behold. 

Then from the basin someone dredges, 

Ring after ring, the player's pledges, 

And comes her ringlet, they rehearse 
The immemorial little verse: 

"There all the serfs are wealthy yeomen, 

They shovel silver with a spade; 

To whom we sing, he shall be made 
Famous and rich!" But for ill omen 
They take this plaintive ditty's voice; 

Koshurka (kitten) is the maiden's choice 

- Pushkin i, from Eugene Onegin V.8, translated by Waiter Arndt. 

Podbljudnaja - (Pohd-blyood-NIE-ya) - "Under the Plate" 

This form of divination should be done on Koliada and New Year's 
only. Each person takes a ring off their finger and places it into a bowl 
filled with water. A plate covers the bowl and songs are sung over it. 
At the end of each song, a ring is pulled out and the fate that the song 
is believed to apply to the owner of that ring. 


Some traditional Podbljudnaja: 

Podbljudnaja that fortell a wedding: 

The ring was rolling 
Along the velvet 
The ring rolled up 
To the ruby. 

For one who takes it out 
For her it will come true, 


34 



For her it will come true, 

She will not escape 

A Maple entwined with a birch 
It did not untwine - Lada, Lada 
Whoever takes it out 
For her it will come true, 

All will be well. 

A little cat is sitting 
In a wicker basket 
She is sewing a towel. 

She will marry the tom 
For whom we are singing 
All will be well. 

Podbljudnaja that fortell wealth: 

A rooster was digging 
on a little mound of Earth 
The rooster dug up 
A little pearl. 

For whoever gets it 
All will be well. 

A calyx is floating from somewhere beyond the sea. 

To wherever it floats, there it will blossom. 

Whoever takes it out - For her will it come true. 

She will not escape - glory! 

To predict a journey: 

The sleigh stands, ready to go - Glory! 

In it the cushions are all arranged - Glory! 

It stands near the forest, waiting to go for a ride - Glory! 
To whom we sing this song, all will be well. 

It will come true, she will not escape - Glory. 


35 



To predict widowhood: 


I sat - by a window 
I waited - for my beloved 
I could no longer wait 
I fell asleep. 

In the morning -1 awoke 
I suddenly - realized 
I am a widow. 

To whom we sing, all will come true. 


To fortell death: 

Death is walking down the street 
Carrying blini* on a plate 
Whoever takes the ring out 
For her it will come true. 

She will not escape - Glory. 

(*blini is a traditional food offering to the dead) 

This podbljudnaja is traditionally sung at midnight on New Year's eve 
and also predicts death. 


A dandy once took a very sharp axe - Lileju 
The dandy went out - into the wide courtyard. 
The dandy began - to hew some boards 
To nail the wood - into an oaken coffin 
Whomever this song reaches, 

For her it will come true 
She will not escape 


36 



If you choose to write your own songs for this divination ritual, you 
may want to use some traditional symbolism. Bread, grain, millet or 
rye symbolize harvest, fulfillment and material security. Gold, silver, 
jewels, pearls, fur and expensive cloth symbolize luxury and wealth. 
Doing things together like eating, drinking, working, standing or 
sitting together symbolize love and happy marriages. The songs are 
usually short as one song quickly follows another and traditionally, 
each refrain ends with a praise word such as glory. 

Songs taken from Reeder: Russian Folk Lyrics. 

A Russian flower divination resembles the "He loves me" rhyme. They 
say: 

Lyubit, Ne lyubit, Plyunit, Potseluyet, K sertsu prizhmet, K chertu 
poshlet, Dorogoj nazovet 

(S/He loves, doesn't love me, Spits on me, Kisses me, Hugs me to 
his/her heart, Sends me to the devil, Calls me his/her dear one.) 


If a thread was hanging from one's clothing, they would wrap it around 
the finger while reciting the alphabet. Whatever letter you stop on 
when the thread is fully wrapped is the initial of the future spouse. The 
color of the thread is also important. If the thread is pale, the spouse 
will be blonde, if dark, the spouse will be a brunette. 


Wax Divinations - before Koljada, wax was melted and after it cooled, 
or was dropped into water, special attention was given to its shape. A 
coffin meant death to the inquirer, a ring meant marriage, etc. 
Sometimes this method was used by dropping molten lead into the 
water instead of wax. 

New Year's Divinations - 

Divination rituals that occurred on New Year's Eve were considered 
especially powerful if one followed certain rules. No crosses or belts 
could be worn and no blessings could be asked. 


37 



It was customary on New Year's Eve for a girl to back up to the 
bathhouse door with her hem over the back of her head (rear-end 
exposed) and ask a question of the Bannik. If a cold touch or scratch 
from his claw was felt, it meant no. If a warm touch or caress was felt, 
it meant yes. 

This same divination could be used if one put their hand in-between 
the wood of the bathhouse. 

If you looked into the mirror in the steam bath on New Years eve, you 
would see the face of your future husband, or if you slept on a log, you 
would see his face in a dream. 

If you caught the moons reflection in a mirror, your future spouses 
name would also be revealed there. 


38 



Remedies 


These are actual remedies that were used, taken from various sources. 
Whether or not they work, I could not tell you. 


• Alcoholism: 

a zagovorui, or rune spell, for alcoholism: 

Dost thou hear O Sky (Svarog)? Dost thou see, O Sky? O ye bright 
Stars! Descend into the marriage-cup, and in my cup let there be water 
from a mountain spring. O thou fair Moon! Bow down to my klyet 
(store-room). O thou free Sun! Dawn upon my homestead. O ye Stars! 
Deliver me,(insert name here), from drink! O Sun, draw me from 
drink! 

• Colds: 

I think Babci was just trying to keep me quiet with this one when I was 
little! 

Into a cup of hot tea add fresh lemon juice, honey and a shot of 
jezynowka (Polish cherry brandy). Sip. Have no more than 2 cups, 
unless you WANT to get drunk. 

• Coughs: 

Upon retiring, have a glass of hot beer. 

Add some honey to a grated radish and eat along with any of the radish 
juices. 

• Crankiness: 

"When your child is mysteriously cranky, has a strange unyielding 
headache, or can't sleep after a day out or around people, either the 
child has been jinxed or exposed to negative energy/forces 

The child's mother should take the lower left corner of her skirt, apron, 
or shirt with her right hand and wipe the childs face several times in a 


39 



clockwise direction. Afterwards, give the child some water and put it 
to bed. 

This spell is normally used for young children but it works at any age. 
My 70 year old grandma did it to my 50 year old mother a little while 
ago and it worked." 


• Fever: 

Rub vodka on your chest and feet, put some mustard powder in a pair 
of woollen socks and put them on. Drink a mixture of milk, honey, 
baking soda, and vodka and go to sleep. 

Before bed, stand naked, wearing only a woolen hat, with your feet up 
to the ankles in hot water and drink a large mug of tea with honey, 
jam, and at least lOOg (about 2 1/2 shots) of vodka. 

• Hemtnorhoids: 

Put two liters of milk and four large onions in a large covered clay pot 
and slowly heat it in the oven. Remove the pot from the oven, replace 
the cover with a toilet seat or similar object and sit on it. Steam 
yourself for a while and then rub the afflicted area with vaseline. 

• Hiccups: 

Rub a mixture of vinegar and mustard on your tongue. Hold for two 
minutes and then rinse. 

• Illness, general: 

a zagorvorui, or runespell, for healing: 

Mother Zorya of morning and evening and midnight! as ye quietly 
fade away and disappear, so may both sicknesses and sorrows in me, 
(insert name), quietly fade and disappear - those of the morning, and of 
the evening, and of midnight! 

• Pain: 

"For unexplainable pain in the arm, hand, or wrist which nothing 
seems effective on.... 


40 



Take a piece of thread (red is best...I don't know why but I can ask if 
you like) and tie it around your wrist. It should ease the pain if it 
doesn't get rid of it all together." 

• Sore Throat: 

Mix one cup vodka, one cup oil and the juice of one lemon. Gargle 
with it and then drink. 

Make a juice of mashed onion and water. Gargle. 

Breathe heavily on a frog for about 8 to 10 minutes. The frog's heart 
should start beating rapidly and the sickness should pass entirely to the 
frog. You should feel instant relief. The less faint of heart should put 
the frog directly into the mouth and hold it for a couple of minutes. 


• Stuffy nose: 

Mash several cloves of garlic and put them in a pot of boiling water. 
Stand over the pot and breathe through your nose for five minutes. 

•Tickling, To proof a child against: 

Roll dough over the child's back, then bake a flat cake of that dough 
and feed it to the dog. 

• Toothache: 

Place a piece of salo (a slab of fat) in the opposite side of the mouth 
from the painful region. Hold for about 20 minutes. 

A zagovorui, runespell, for a toothache: 

O thou young Moon! Test the dead and the living: the teeth of one who 
is dead, do they ache? Not at all ache the teeth of one dead, whose 
bones are tanned, whose teeth are mute....Grant, O Lord, that the teeth 
of me,_, may become mute and never ache. 

This zagovorui must be recited three times while biting the stone 
doorway of a church: 

As this stone is firm, so may my teeth also become stony - harder than 
stone 

This supposedly goes back to pre-Christian times and the stone was 
originally the stone of an axe or hammer, symbols of Perun. 


41 



• Ulcer: 

Mix two raw eggs with a shot of vodka and drink 20 minutes before 
breakfast. 

• Upset stomach: 

Add salt and pepper to two shots of vodka and drink. 

• Warts: My grandmother's remedy - 

Cut a piece from a potato (be careful that it does not include an "eye") 
rub the cut part on the wart and then bury the piece of potato. As the 
potato dissolves, so will the wart. 


Omens & Superstitions 

Never touch a person or shake their hand over the threshold. If you 
don't wait until they are inside, you will not see them again for seven 
years and risk angering the Domovoi to boot. 


It is unlucky to sit at the corner of a table. 


If the cat is cleaning herself it means that company is coming. 


If you whistle inside, you risk losing all your money. 


Never begin a new project on a Friday. 


If you compliment a person on their appearance or their baby's health, 
you must either knock unpolished wood or spit three times over the 
left shoulder lest the fairy's take them. 


42 



Never shave or cut your hair when a family member is in danger. 


Never cut your hair while pregnant or the unbilical cord will wrap 
around ur baby's neck. 


When giving flowers, give only odd numbers of flowers. Even 
numbers are for the dead. 


If a bird hits the window, someone will die. 


If you accidently step in poop or a bird poops on you, you will win 
money. 


If you break a mirror, you can run the pieces under water to counteract 
the bad luck. 


Never show a newborn baby to a stranger until it is at least 40 days 
old. 


Do not put keys on a table. You’ll lose money. 




Tatyana, in her heart obeying 
The simple folkways of the past, 
Believed in dreams and in soothsaying 
And heeded what the moon forecast. 
Weird apparitions would distress her, 
And any object could impress her 
With some occult significance 
Or dire foreboding of mischance. 

A preening pussycat, relaxing 


43 



Upon the stove with lick and purr, 

Was an unfailing sign to her 
That guests were coming; or a waxing 
Twin-horned young moon that she saw ride 
Across the sky on her left side 

Would make her tremble and change color; 

Each time a shooting star might flash 
In the dark firmament, grow duller 
And burst asunder into ash: 

All flustered, Tanya would be seeking, 

While yet the fiery spark was streaking, 

To whisper it her heart's desire. 

But if she met a black-robed friar 
At any place or any season, 

Or if from out the meadow swath 
A fleeing hare should cross her path, 

She would be frightened out of reason, 

And filled with superstitious dread, 

See some calamity ahead. 

- Pushkin - from Eugene Onegin V. 5 & V. 6 - translated by 
Waiter Arndt. 


44 



Slavic Pagan Holidays 


Winter 

Koljada (Kohl-YAH-da) - The Winter Solstice. 

Most agree that the word comes from the Roman word "calendae" 
which meant the first 10 days of any month. Some, however, believe 
the word is derived from the word "Kolo" or wheel - much like the 
word "Yule" is an Anglo-Saxon word for wheel. The holiday's original 
name may have been "Ovsen". The holiday was filled with revelry. 
Processions of people masked like animals and cross-dressers roamed 
the village. Often they were accompanied by a "goat"- a goat's head, 
either real or (usually) made and stuffed on a stick. The person holding 
the "goat" would be covered by a blanket to play the part. Sometimes a 
child on horseback - symbol of the reborn sun - would accompany 
them; the horse was often played by two young men in horses 
costumes. One of the wenders would carry a spinning solar symbol, 
internally lit by a candle, on a stick. Later, after Christianity entered 
the scene, the spinning "sun" became a star. 

This unusual group would stop and sing Koljada songs from house to 
house. These songs usually included invocations to "Koljada", the god 
or goddess of the holiday, praises and good wishes,requests for 
handouts and threats for refusal. The handouts, also called "koljada", 
usually took the form of little pastries or "korovki" shaped like cows or 
goats. The were sometimes just in the shape of the animals head, but 
often were described as having "horns and tails and everything." The 
korovki were traditionally baked by the old people in the house, the 
grandmothers and grandfathers. 

The "tricks" played by those who were not rewarded could be brutal: 
Garbage might be brought from all over the village and piled in front 
of the offending host's gate, their gate might be tom off and thrown in 
the nearest water or livestock could be led off. 

In Poland one "caroller" would carry a bundle of hazel twigs and after 
receing koljada, would gently hit his host/ess with a small stick loudly 


45 



wishing "Na shchestia, na zdravia, na tot Noviy Reek" (happiness, 
health, in the coming New Year). A small twig was left with the 
farmer who nailed it above his door for wealth and protection. 


Bonfires were sometimes lit and the dead ancestors asked inside to 
warm themselves. Mock funerals were held where a person pretending 
to be dead was carried into the house amidst both laughter and wailing. 
Sometimes even a real corpse was used. One young girl would be 
chosen and tradition made her kiss the "corpse" on the lips. If a 
pretend corpse was used, the person would leap up after being kissed - 
a symbol of rebirth. 


Holiday foods included kut'ia, a traditional funeral food consisting of 
whole grains and pork. The whole grain is a universal symbol - "the 
seed as the mysterious container of new life" (J A Propp p.8) 

On the last day of the koljada season in Poland, all the unmarried men 
of the village would get together to "wend" for oats. It was impossible 
to get rid of them with a scoop of oats; it took at least 7 liters. The 
farmer would keep a sharp eye on his grain that night, because 
otherwise the carollers would steal it as part of the evening's custom. 
With the money from the sold oats the men would hire musicians and 
organize a large dance party in the village during the pre-Spring 
festival period. 

If you don't give us a tart - We’ll take your cow by the horns. 

If you don’t give us a sausage - We'll grab your pig by the head. 

If you don't give us a bliny - We’ll give the host a kick. 

- Reeder, p.85 

New Year's Day - originally on the Winter Solstice, New years was 
considered the most powerful time for divination. A traditional New 
Year's divination was called podbljunaja (powd-blyew-NIE-ya) or 
"under the plate". Details of this divinatory system may be found on 
the Slavic Magick page. Pork was traditionally eaten at this time. 


46 



Spring 


Strinennia - Mar 9th. Clay images of larks were made, their heads 
smeared with honey and stuck with tinsel. They were carried around 
the village amidst the singing of vesnjanki, invocations to Spring. 

Birds were thought to bring the Spring with them upon their return. 
Children were given pastries shaped like birds to toss into the air while 
saying "The rooks have come.". Sometimes the pastries were tied to 
poles in the garden. The baking of these pastries was to ensure that the 
birds would return. 


Oh little bee, Ardent bee! 

Fly out beyond the sea. 

Get out the keys, the golden keys. 

Lock up winter, cold winter 
Unlock summer, warm summer. 

Warm summer - 
A summer fertile in grain. 

- Reeder, p 92 

Maslenica (Mah-sweh-NEET-sa) "Butter woman" from the word 
Maslo which means butter. Originally it was practiced at the Vernal 
Equinox but later was celebrated the week before lent. Maslenica 
(mah-sweh-NEET-sa), sometimes called Shrovetide, was a celebration 
of the returning light, a time of games and contests, especially horse 
racing, fist fights, sliding and mock battles. It was a time for protection 
and purification rituals and a time of gluttony, obscenity and 
dissolution. 

At the beginning of the festivities a life-sized corn doll would be made 
as a personification of the holiday. The doll would be invoked and 
welcomed by the name Maslenica. Sometimes a drunken peasant was 
chosen, instead, to represent Maslenica. He would either be dressed in 
woman’s clothing or in a costume sewn all over with bells. His face 
would be smeared with soot and he would be seated on a wheel resting 
on a pole within a sledge. Wine and pastries would surround him and 
as many as could would accompany him in other sledges. Crowds 
would follow on foot, laughing, dancing and singing ritualsongs. Corn 


47 



"Maslenitsas" were also driven around in barrows, wagons or sleighs 
accompanied by crowds of celebrants. 


Many customs honoring the sun were included in the festivities such 
as the lighting of bonfires, pushing a wheel whose axel pole was a 
flaming torch about or circling the village on horseback with torches. 
Farmsteads were also circled at this time, either with a religious icon 
or with brooms, sweeping around the entire property three times to 
create a magickal circle which protected against illness and evil spirits. 


Traditionally, the house and barn were cleaned and decorated and 
holiday foods such as bliny (pancakes), kulich (sweet bread) and 
paskha (pyramid shaped cottage-cheese bread) were prepared. Special 
loaves were baked and fed to the cattle to guard them from unclean 
spirits. Kozuli, pastries shaped like cattle, goats, etc. were prepared 
and eaten to bring on the multiplication of the herds. Eggs were 
decorated and rolled along the ground in order to transfer the fertility 
of the egg to the earth. The customary "swinging" which occured at 
this time was believed to strengthen the stock and fertility of the 
villagers as well. 


Maslenitsa was considered to be a time for purification. All salt was 
prepared for the coming year, as salt was used for cleansing and 
curative purposes. Ritual baths to prepare for the oncoming work in 
the fields were also taken before sunrise and followed with fumigation 
in the smoke of the juniper. 

Another important part of Slavic ritual is the funeral meal. A huge 
feast was prepared and brought to the cemetary where it was eaten 
amidst much wailing and laughter. Food was always left for the dead. 
In Eastern European ritual, funeral and fertility rites are intertwined. 
Volos, a god of the herds, is believed by many to be the same god as 
Veles, an underworld deity. 

At the end of the week the Maslenitsa (if a doll was used) was taken to 
a field outside the village, usually where the winter crops were 
planted. There it was destroyed, either by being tom apart and thrown 
into the field or burned. This was the remnant of an earlier cult of a 


48 



dying and resurected God, Volos perhaps, whose death brought life to 
the fields. The "God" was always destroyed with laughter as such a 
"death" was seen to bring life. Smaller dolls were also made for 
individual households which were also torn apart at the week's end and 
fed to the livestock. This was believed to ensure their fertility and the 
customary willow branch they were fed was thought to protect them 
for the entire year to come. 

Our Dear Maslenica, dear, leli, dear 

Came for a while, for a while, leli, for a while 

We thought for seven weeks, seven weeks, leli, seven weeks 

But Maslenica stayed only seven days, seven days, leli, seven days 

And Maslenica deceived us, deceived us, leli, deceived us 

To lent she offered a seat, offered a seat, leli, offered a seat 

Bitter horseradish she put out, put out, leli, put out 

And that horseradish is more bitter than xren, more bitter than xren, 

leli, more bitter than xren. 

(Traditional Maslenica song - Zemcovskij - xren is a form of 
horseradish also) 

It is interesting to note that in this song, the singer laments that he is 
betrayed by Maslenica because she gives up her seat to Lent and gives 
him bitter things (to eat). In the Slavic traditions, The periods directly 
before and after Easter were filled with customs, rituals and 
celebrations although Easter itself came and went without much ado. 
This is supposedly due to the Orthodox Priest’s successful efforts to 
keep the day of Easter, itself free of pagan influence.The holiday of 
Maslenitsa lasted a week and marked the beginning of the Slavic 
Spring Festivals which continue through to the Summer Solstice, 
Kupalo. 

Krasnaja Gorka - "beautiful" or "red" hillock - the Sunday after 
Easter. In Russia, a woman holding a red egg and round loaf of bread 
would face East and sing a spring song which the chorus then took up. 
Afterward, a doll representing Marzena, grandmother Winter, was 
carried to the edge of the village and thrown out or destroyed. 
Xorovods, Russian circle dances, started on this day as well as were 


49 



Spring game songs; A female performer would enter the center of a 
circle and mime the sowing, pulling, spreading, etc..of the flax all the 
way up to the spinning. She and all those in the circle would sing: 

Turn out well, turn out well, my flax. 

Turn out well, my white flax. * 

This is a form of sympathetic magic to ensure a bountiful flax harvest. 

(* - Reeder - Russian Folk lyrics) 

Radunica - (Rah-doo-NEET-sa) The second Tuesday after Easter. 
This holiday was originally known as Nav Dien (Day of the Dead) and 
was a bi-annual holiday to celebrate the ancestors. The original dates 
of these two holidays were probably May eve and November eve - 
cross-quarter dates. Usually feasting and celebrating occured in the 
cemetaries among much ritual wailing. Offerings, often of eggs, were 
left to the dead. 


Ascension - 40 days after Easter. This holiday may have originally 
fallen on May eve and been tied in with the holiday of Nav Dien. On 
this day, lark pastries were again baked. After supper, all would rest a 
while and then take their lark pastries into the rye fields. A prayer 
would be offered at each side of the field while the larks were tossed 
into the air and people cried "So that my rye may grow as high". The 
larks were then eaten. 

Village girls customarily imitated the spring bird's song. Songs were 
sung on opposite ends of the village with one chorus answering the 
other. When finished, another song would begin in the distance and in 
this fashion the songs would travel from village to village. 


St. Egorij (George) Day - April 23 - George is Greek for 
"farmer". The first day the flocks are taken to the fields. They were 
driven out using pussy willows that had been blessed on Palm Sunday. 
The energy of the willow was thought to be transferred to the animal, 
or person, being whipped by it. According to an old song; 

The pussy willow has brought health 
The pussy willow whip beats you to tears 
The pussy willow does not beat in vain. 


50 



People walk around the fields singing invocations to Egorij begging 
him to protect the flock from wild animals in the fields and beyond 
them. These invocations probably originated as prayers to the god 
Weles, ruler of horned animals, wealth and the underworld. After the 
flocks left, the entire village would gather together for one solemn 
moment. Some of the pussy willows were then stuck in the rye fields 
to give them strength, others were brought home to ensure the flock's 
return. 

St. Egorij is a holiday predominated by men. One ritual for this day 
consisted of the old village men going down to the river and gathering 
a stone for every animal in their family's flock. They would then put 
them in a bag and hang the bag in the courtyard saying 


Tsar of the fields, Tsarina of the fields, 
Tsar of the forest, Tsarina of the forest, 
Tsar of the water, Tsarina of the water, 
Protect my flocks, from the evil eye, 
From wicked people, from wild beasts, 
And from all others. 


On the eve of this holiday, young boys and men do a form of trick-or- 
treating by singing from house to house for food and bestowing 
blessings upon those who are generous and curses upon those who are 
not. This door-to-door singing was called "The Labor of St. George." 

Cows, give birth to calves. Pigs, give birth to sucklings. 

Roosters, stamp your feet. Hens, hatch chickens. 

Hostes be good to us. Host, don't be stingy. 

If the host and hostess were generous, the singers would usually wish 
for the hosts and for themselves 200 cows and 150 bulls each. If the 
host was stingy, he might hear: 

Neither a farm, nor a courtyard 

Not any chicken feathers 

May God grant you cockroaches and bedbugs 


51 



Rusal'naia Week - (Roo-sahl-NIE-ya) originally just after May 
eve, this holiday was later celebrated on the 7th or 8th week after 
Easter. The holiday was possibly named after the Roman holiday 
Rosalia. During this week the Rusalki, female water spirits, were said 
to leave the rivers and go to the forests and fields. Birches were 
considered a source of vegetative power and homes were decorated 
with birch branches, both inside and out. 



On the Wednesday of this week, girls would go into the forests and 
choose and mark the birches. The following day, Semik, bringing fried 
eggs (omelettes) & beer, they would decorate the chosen trees with 
flowers. One special birch would be chosed and "curled". That is, the 
ends of the twigs would be knotted and twisted to form wreaths. The 
fried eggs would be placed around it while Semickajas (songs sung 
only at Semik) were sung. Then the kumit'sja ceremony would be held: 
The girls would kiss each other through wreaths on the birch tree and 
swear an oath of friendship. This spell was believed to ensure that they 
would be friends for life or, "kumas". 


52 



This tree was sometimes left in the forest, and sometimes cut down 
and brought into the village. No males were allowed to touch the tree. 
The tree might be dressed in woman's clothing and/or stripped of its 
lower branches. Sometimes this tree was set up in a home as a guest. If 
left in the forest, its tip might be bent down and tied to the grass, 
ensuring that its sacred energy would return to the earth. Girls would 
sing and dance the xorovod around the tree. 

Banishings of the Rusalki were performed during Rusal’naia. Dolls of 
them were made and ritually torn apart in the grain fields. 


On the Sunday of this week, girls would perform memorial rites on the 
graves of their parents and afterward divide eggs among their family 
members. Then the sacred birch tree was removed from the village and 
tossed into a local river or stream. Girls would take wreaths from their 
heads and toss them in after the birch. If their wreath floated off, love 
was to come from the direction the wreath floated toward. If the 
wreath sunk, the girl was supposed to die within the following year. If 
it circled, misfortune would come. 


I, a young girl, am going to the quiet meadow, the quiet meadow. 

To the quiet meadow, to a little birch. 

I, a young girl, will pick a blue cornflower, 

A little blue cornflower, a cornflower. 

I, a young girl, will weave a wreath. 

I, a young girl, will go to the river. 

I will throw the wreath down the river. 

I will think about my sweetheart 
My wreath is drowning, drowning. 

My heart is aching, aching. 

My wreath will drown. 

My sweetheart will abandon me. 

- Reeder, p.101 

Semik - (Seh-MEEK) the Thursday of Rusal’naia Week. This was the 
day to perform funerals for all those who had not yet been properly 
buried. 

53 



Semik songs ( Semikjas ): 


While selecting the birch: 

Don't rejoice oak trees. Don't rejoice green ones. 

Not to you are the girls coming. Not to you, the pretty ones. 

Not to you are they bringing pies, pastries, omelettes. 

Yo, Yo Semik and Trinity! 

Rejoice birches! Rejoice green ones! 

To you the girls are coming! 

To you they are bringing pies, pastries, omelettes. 

Yo, yo Semik and Trininty. 

While curling the birch: 

Oh birch, so curly, curly and young, 

Under you, little birch, no poppy is blooming. 

Under you, little birch, no fire is burning - 
No poppy is blooming - 
Pretty maids are dancing a xorovod, 
about you little birch, they are singing songs. 

Summer 

Kupalo - (Coo-PAH-loh) - the Celebration of the summer solstice. 
Kupalo comes from the verb kupati which means "to bathe" and mass 
baths were taken on the morning of this holiday. On this holiday, the 
sun supposedly bathed by dipping into the waters at the horizon. This 
imbued all water with his power and therefore, those who bathed on 
this day would absorb some of that power. 

Fire was sacred to the ancient Slavs and fires were never allowed to go 
out. In the sanctuaries, fires were tended by the priests and in the 
home, guarded by the mother. On the eve of Kupalo, however, all fires 
were extinquished and rekindled with "new fire". New fire was created 
by friction. A peg was rotated within a hole in a block of wood made 
especially for this purpose. In some areas, animals were sacrificed on 
Kupalo's eve and a feast prepared of them entirely by men was shared 
as a communal meal. Bonfires were lit and couples jumped over them. 


54 



It was considered a good omen and prediction of marriage if a young 
couple could jump the flame without letting go of each other's hand. 
Cattle was chased through the fires in order to ensure their fertility. 


At the beginning of the celebration, a straw image of "Kupalo" was 
made of straw, dressed like a woman and placed under a sacred tree. 
At the end of the festival, the effigy was ritually destroyed by burning, 
"drowning" or being ripped apart. Afterward, elaborate mock funerals 
were held. Two people pretending to be a priest and deacon would 
cense the figure, with a mixture of dung and old shoes burning over 
coals in a clay pot. The funeral was carried out among much wailing 
and laughter. 

Kupalo was considered the most powerful time to gather both magical 
and medicinal plants. It was considered the only time to gather the 
magical fire-fern. On Kupalo's eve, the flower of the fern was said to 
climb up the plant and burst into bloom. Anyone who obtained it 
would gain magical powers including the ability to find treasures. To 
gather the herb, one must draw a magic circle around the plant and 
ignore the taunts of the demons who would try to frighten them off. 
Kupalo marked the end of the "Spring festival" period which started in 
the beginning of March. 


Perun's Day - July 20th. On this day a human sacrifice was chosen 
by ballot. There is record of a viking's son being chosen and the viking 
refusing to give him up. Both father and son were killed as a result. 
This day was considered a "Terrible" holiday. The sacrifice was seen 
as necessary to placate the God and keep him from destroying the 
crops with late summer storms. According to Dr. Buhler in De Diis 
Samogitarum, the prayer uttered by the officiating priest went as 
follows: 

Perkons! Father! Thy children lead this faultless victim to thy altar. 
Bestow, O Father, they blessing on the plough and on the corn. May 
golden straw with great well-filled ears rise abundantly as rushes. 
Drive away all black haily clouds to the great moors, forests, and large 
deserts, where they will not frighten mankind; and give sunshine and 
rain, gentle falling rain, in order that the crops may thrive!" 

A bull was also sacrificed and it was eaten as a communal meal. 


55 



Autumn 


St. Ilia's Day - August 2nd. In the Ukraine, this day marked the 
beginning of autumn. It was said "Until dinner, it's summer. After 
dinner, it's autumn." Ilia is closely related to Perun and this was most 
probably one of Perun's holy days. After this day, no swimming was 
allowed as Ilia will curse anyone he finds swimming after his feast 
day. 


Harvest - Harvest Holidays occured anywhere from Aug 2 to the 
autumn equinox and lasted from 4 days to a week. Various rituals 
center around the reaping and threshing of the sheaths. The Harvest 
Holidays of the Slavs were far more practical than ritual. The songs 
sung at this time are almost completely concerned with the work at 
hand or praises for the host and hostess or the one who brought the 
cup. Work parties called tolo'ka or pomoi' were formed and these 
travelled from farm to farm until all the work was done. The host was 
obligated to provide the day's food and entertainment. 


Yablochnyi/Medovoy Spas - or "Apple/Honey Saviour. This is a 
crossquarter holiday between the summer solstice and the fall equinox. 
It celebrates the wealth of the 

harvest when fruit and honey are ready to be gathered. The first fruits 
and honey picked on this day and the bee hives were blessed. 

Zaziuki - on or around Aug 7, might be the same holiday as Spas. 
Particular attention was paid to the first sheaf (zazhinochnyi or 
zazhinnyi) which was usually brought into the house and threshed 
separately. Sometimes it was blessed and then mixed back in with the 
seed. The end of the harvest celebration was called Dozinki. The last 
sheaf (the dozhinochnyi orotzhinnyi) was also brought in the house 
where it was either decorated with flowers and ribbons or dressed in 
woman’s clothing. It was then placed in the entrance corner of the 
home or near any religious icons until Oct 1, when it was fed to the 
cattle. Sometimes the last sheaf ceremony was merged with the ritual 
surrounding a small patch of field that was left uncut. The spirit of the 
harvest was said to precede the reapers and hide in the uncut grain. 
This small patch was referred to as the "beard" of Volos, the God of 


56 



animals and wealth. The uncut sheaves of wheat in "Volos' beard" 
were decorated with ribbons and the heads were bent toward the 
ground in a ritual called "The curling ofthe beard". This was believed 
to send the spirit of the harvest back to the Earth. Salt and bread, 
traditional symbols of hospitality were left as offerings to Volos' 
beard. 


Mokosh Day - Mokosh was honored on the Friday between Oct 25 
and Nov 1. She was given offerings of vegetables. One reference fixes 
this date on Oct 28. 


57 



Slavic Gods & Goddesses 


Magic permeated every aspect of our ancestor's lives. The fields, 
forests, barn, bath and hearth were all ruled by spectral beings, 
sometimes good, sometimes horrible. Each flame and river was a 
goddess or god, each flower and stone a sentient being. The spirits of 
the dead too, filled the Slavic world. Life-draining wampyr, trees 
housing the souls of the departed, fairy-folk and ancestral spirits were 
an integral part of life, demanding respect and often, sacrifice. The 
Pagan Slav spent his entire existence tightly wrapped in a dark cloak 
of magic, mystery, and sometimes, terror. The spirits, after all, are 
always watching. 



Temple of Swiantowid from the archives of Gavin Bone, Janet & 
Stewart Farrar 


This page is far from complete as only one or two descriptions are 
being added at a time. With such a rich collection of Deities and 


58 








Spirits in the Slavic tradition, this page should soon grow to a 
disproportionately large size. Highlighted entries link to images and 
stories. 


Fairies, Spirits and Minor Deities 
• Bannik (BAHN-neek) 

Bath house spirit. Slavic bathhouses were like saunas with an inner 
steaming room and an outer room for changing. They were dark and 
frightening and like many scary places, were considered perfect for 
divinations.They were also the place most often used for child-bearing. 
No newborn was left there long, though, lest the fairies whould steal 
him. No Christian icons were allowed in the bath house, neither, as 
they may offend the it's true occupant - the Bannik. It was customary 
in some places to offer every third firing of the sauna, or sometimes 
the fourth to the Bannik. One did not want to disturb him while 
bathing, though, or he might just throw hot water on them. Other times 
he would use his sharp claws to flay his victim alive. Besides a firing 
of the sauna, he liked offerings of soap, fir branches, and a water. The 
Bannik usually takes on the appearance of a member or friend of the 
family; so if you ever see someone you know in the bathroom, and 
find out later that they weren't there. 


• Bereginy - Byginki in Polish (boo-GIN-kee) 

Traditionally "covens" of old women performed the rituals and 
sacrifices for these river bank nymphs. Byginki means "little 
Goddess". They were said to steal human babies and leave behind 
changelings called Odmience in Polish, Oborotni in Russian. 

These spirits were the original spirits of life and predate the sky 
deities. They are the forerunners of the Rusalki. 


• Bolotnyi - Bagnica in Polish (bahg-NEETS-ah) 
from "boloto" or "bagnu" - swamp. Female bog spirit 


59 



• Dogoda (doh-GOH-da) 
The gentle West wind. 


• Domawiczka (Doh-mah-VEETCH-kah) 
female Domovoi or wife of the Domovoi. May be the same as the 
Kikimora. There are very few reports on this spirit, but they usually 
involve her rewarding anyone who bathes or finds her baby. 


• Domovoi - Domowije in Polish (doh-moh-VEE-yeh) 

Male house spirits from "domu" -home. The Domovik usually lives in 
the attic, behind the stove, under the threshhold or in the stables or 
cattle barn. He is thought to be responsible for all domestic prosperity 
and tranquility and finish chores when family members forget. He will 
howl and moan to warn of approaching trouble, and pull hair to warn a 
woman in danger of abuse from a man. He can be heard laughing if 
good times are ahead, and if you hear him strumming a comb, there is 
a wedding in the future. The Domovoi should be fed nightly or he may 
cause trouble, much like a poltiergeist. Usually, if neglected, he will 
simply leave. To attract a domovoi, put on your finest clothing, go 
outside and say "Dedushka Dobrokhot (grandfather well-wisher), 
come live with us and tend the flocks." 

Special care was taken to only obtain pets and farm animals in the 
Domovoi's favorite color. Each new horse was introduced formally to 
the Domovoi for the spirit took especially good care of the animals he 
liked but tormented the ones he didn't. 

When a new house was built, the owner would put a piece of bread 
down before the stove went in, to attract the domovoi. When a person 
moved, the coals from the stove were taken with them and the formal 
invitation "Domovoi, Domovoi, don't stay here. Come with our 
family" was recited to ensure that the Domovoi came along to the new 
home. Salted bread, wrapped in a white cloth will appease the 
domovoi as will putting clean white linen in his favorite room - an 
invitation to eat with the family. You can also hang your old shoes in 
the yard to brighten the Domovik's mood. The domovik usually 
resembles a male head of household, living or dead. This supports the 
belief that the Domovik is a remnant from the times of ancestral 
worship. He can be seen if you view him through a harrow or horse 
collar. Otherwise, if he shows himself, it is usually to warn of death. 


60 



He, like the Banshee, can be heard weeping when death approaches a 
member of the household. 


• Dvorovoi - Russian 

Male yard spirits from "dvor" - yard. Like the domovoi, he usually 
resembles the male head of household and has preferences as to the 
color of pets and livestock. He is usually malicious and sometimes, but 
not often, deadly. He is appeased by placing a shiny object, slice of 
bread and piece of sheep's wool in the stables while saying "Master 
Dvorovik, I offer you this gift in gratitude. Please look after the cattle 
and feed them well." If he is completely out of control he is punished 
in the following way: The head of household wove a three-tailed whip 
from a corpse's shroud, dipped it in wax, ingnited it and whipped all 
comers of the cattle shed and manger, hoping to beat the spirit into 
submission. 


• Eretik - (EH -reh-teek), erestun, eretica, eretnik. 

"heretic" This later term for the upyr is due to the belief that heretics 
returned from the dead as evil spirits. This belief was considered 
responsible for the brutality and hysteria surrounding the medieval 
Russian campaign against heretics. The eretik usually returns from the 
grave to devour people, the eretsun is usually a living vampire created 
when the soul of a sorceror possesses and revives the body of one on 
the brink of death. The eretica usually causes one to wither by the 
power of her eye. The eyes of the dead, in Slavic belief, could lure one 
into the grave. That is why it was so important to close the eyes of the 
newly deceased. 


• Kikimora (kee-kee-MOHR-ah) or Shishimora 
female house spirit who usually lives in the cellar or behind the stove. 
She comes out at night to spin and will look after the housework and 
the chickens if the home is well tended. If the household is a sloppy 
one she will wine, whistle and tickle the children at night. She is 
sometimes married to the domovik. To appease an angry Kikimora, 
you should wash all your pots and pans in a fern tea. She appears as an 
average woman with hair down (Slavic women always kept their heads 
covered) or sometimes with chicken feet. She would occasionally 
appear, spinning, to one about to die. 


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• Kurinyi bog (kur-EEN-yee book) 

"Chicken God". Usually a round licldstone with a hole in the middle in 
the chicken yard. This "deity" was supposed to protect chickens from 
the domovoi, kikimora and dvorovoi. 

• Leszi, Leshii (LESH-ee) 

"Forest lord". From "les" - forest. He often appeared as a peasant, 
either without a belt or with shoes on the wrong feet. Sometimes he 
was said to have wings and a tail and be covered in black hair. Many 
assigned him goafs hooves and horns like Pan. He is usually attributed 
with green eyes. He could change his size from that of a blade of grass 
to that of the highest tree. Usually he carried a club to show his 
rulership over the forest creatures. The Leszi could take the shape of a 
familiar person and lead you astray with the sound of their voice. Once 
in his domain, he might tickle his victim to death. He could also 
become a hare, wolf, bear, raven, pig, horse, rooster, flaming fir tree or 
even a mushroom. The Leshi is fond of trees and is said to be heard 
weeping when one is cut down. He is the protector of the forest and all 
it's creatures. His favorite animal is the wolf - the king of the beasts in 
Slavic folklore. He is also said to be often seen in the company of 
bears. 

Upon entering a forest, one always uttered a protective spell or prayer 
lest they run into him. If he got hold of a child, he might replace it with 
one of his own - who would grow up stupid, with a voracious appetite. 
If the child returned it would ever afterward be a useless tramp. When 
the Leshii got his hands on an adult, the adult would return sometimes 
mute and covered with moss, othertimes unable to concentrate and 
would act oddly for the rest of their lives. 

The Leshii likes offerings of kasha, suet, blini, bread & salt. He is also 
perfectly happy with a cookie or candy left on a stump or log. To 
protect yourself against the leshii, you can: turn all your clothing 
backward and also the collar on your horse, chant "Sheep's mug, 
sheep’s wool" or if you encounter him, get him to laugh. When the 
leshy could be coaxed to befriend a human, the human often had to 
make a pact, never again wear a cross or take the eucharist. In return, 
the Leshy would teach the human the secrets of magic. He is, after all, 
the Green Man. 


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In myth and art, the Leshy is often associated with the psychotropic 
mushroom Amanita Muscaria. This may connect him in some way to 
Shamanic mind-altering techniques. 

• Lesovikha - (Leh-soh-VEE-kah) 

Female Leszi. Sometimes an ugly woman with large breasts, 
sometimes a naked young girl - or a woman in white as tall as the 
trees. 


• Lugovik - (loo-GOH-veek) 

Spirit of the meadow, "lugo" - meadow. He should not be confused 
with the spirit of the grain field. 

* Musail 

The forest tsar, king of the forest spirits. He was associated with the 
Rowan tree. 


• Ovinnik - (Oh -VEEN-neek) Russian 

Barn spirit from "Ovin" - threshing bam. The Slavic threshing barn 
was a 2 story building with a furnace entrenched in earth on the first 
floor and the second floor for drying the grain. It was ruled by the 
Ovinnik who appeared as a huge disheveled black cat with burning 
eyes. You could sometimes hear him laughing or barking like a dog 
from the corner of the barn in which he lived. Offerings of blini or the 
last sheaf were left to him.If angered, he was known to burn down the 
barn, usually with it's owner or owner’s children in it. 

• Polewik, Polevoi (poh-LEH-veek) 

Field spirit from "pole" - field. He appears as a deformed dwarf with 
grass for hair and two differently colored eyes. He usually wears either 
all white or all black and appears at noon or sunset. He will lead astray 
people who wander in the fields, and if they fall asleep there, give 
them diseases or ride over them with his horse. If a person falls asleep 
drunk while on the job, the Polewik might kill them. To appease the 
Polewik you must put two eggs and a rooster too old to crow in a ditch 
when no one is looking. 


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• Poludnica - Psezpolnica in Serbian (poh-wood-NEET-sah) Lady 
Midday, from "Poluden" - noon. She may appear as a 12-yr old girl, a 
beautiful woman or an old hag but is only seen at the hottest part of a 
summer's day. She is known to steal children or lead them astray in the 
fields and Russian mothers threaten their children with "Be good or the 
Poludnica will get you. She sometimes pulls the hair of farm workers 
or attacks women who have just given birth and wander out at 
noontime. She carries a scythe and will stop people in the field to 
either ask difficult questions or engage them in conversation. If the 
person fails to answer a question or tries to change the subject of the 
conversation, the Poludnica will strike them with illness or cut off their 
head (Poland). The Wends, German Slavs, called her pscipolnitsa and 
pictured her as carrying shears, a symbol of death. When not in the 
fields or streets, the Poludnica was said to float on the winds. Marija 
Gimbutas calls her "sunstroke" personified. It is thought that the 
Poludnica was the explanation for the dangers of working in the noon 
heat and remained a part of more recent legend because of her 
usefulness in scaring children away from valuable crops. 


• Polunocnica - (Poh-woo-nok-NEET-sah) 

"lady midnight". A "demon" said to torment children in the middle of 
the night. May have originally been the third Zorya of midnight 


• Poluvirica - (Poh-woo-vee-REET-sa) 

"female half-believer". This forest spirit probably had an earlier name 
but was later called poluvirica due to the belief that non-Christians 
returned after death as various home and forest spirits. She appears 
naked, with a long face, long hanging breasts and three braids of hair 
down her back. She is usually seen carrying a child. 


• Rarog - (RAH-rook) Polish, Rarich - Ukranian, Rarach - Czech. 
This same word for whirlwind may be a late bastardization of the 
name Swarog. A falcon, hawk or fiery dwarf who turns himself into a 
whirlwind. From Lusitania to the Urals it was customary to throw a 
knife into a whirlwind to kill the demon residing within it. 


64 



Into this century, Blugarians, Pomeranians and Russians were still 
being observed casting themselves face down before a whirlwind to 
ward off illness and misfortune. Russians whould do so shouting "a 
belt around your neck" in order to strangle the rarog. 

• Rusalka (roo-SAHW-kah) 

Female water Spirit. These souls of unbabtized babies or drowned 
maidens became beautiful pale girls with long flowing hah. They wear 
white or are sometimes naked, usually with poppies in then hair. They 
lived in the waters during the winter, but moved to the forests and 
fields during Rusal’naia week (hence the name) where they could often 
be seen perched in trees. 

A danger to humans, the Rusalki may lead cattle astray, steal children, 
fall upon people from the treetops and tickle them to death or kidnap 
young lads to take as lovers. They love to come out in the moonlight to 
sing and dance the khorovod (circle dance). If they find someone 
bathing near where they dance, often, they will drown them. Tying 
ribbons to trees in which they were known to perch is one way to 
appease them. Linens and scarves, as well as eggs were also left as 
offerings. 

Before these nature spirits were associated with the souls of the 
"unclean" dead, it is believed they were the spirits who brought 
moisture to forest and field. 


• Treasurers pozemne vile - "earth spirits". I have not seen the 
Slavic name for these creatures anywhere - but in Polish the word for 
gnome is "karzelek" (kar-ZEH-lek) which these creatures most 
resemble. Called pchuvushi by the gypsies, they live in mines and 
underground workings and are the guardians of precious metals, gems 
& crystals. They are most often helpful toward miners and will lead 
them to rich veins of ore, protect them from danger and lead them back 
when they are lost. To evil persons or those who insult them they can 
be deadly and have been known to send tunnels crashing down upon 
them or push them into dark chasms. Whistling, hurling rocks into 
dark chasms and uncovering one's head are actions considered 
offensive to the Treasurer. He will, however, warn the offender once 
before taking action. Small insults warrant a pelting with handfuls of 


65 



soil. Larger insults are usually repayed with a beating with the 
Treasurer's cudgel or the forfeit of all the metals mined that day. 

They sometimes appear as small naked children, as human miners, as 
glimmers of light or as salt people. Most often, though, they appear as 
adults of smaller stature, usually about 2-3 feet in height, carrying 
mining lanterns. 

• Wampyr, Upyr 

Vampires have featured in the legends of all Eastern Europe. The 
Kashubian region on the Baltic coast of Poland shows records of an 
exceptionally high belief in Vampires. As recently as the 20th 
century,attempts were made in Puck and Kartuzy to exhume vampires 
and render them harmless. People of high facial colour or an excitable 
nature were supposed to cool slowly on death,retaining a red 
complexion and flexible limbs, hence the expression "Czerwony jak 
wieszczy",red as a vampire. Vampires are the souls of the dead. Their 
physical body does not usually leave the grave. Their victims are their 
own family members whom they visit, one at time to drain their life's 
force. When that family member is dead, they move onto the next. In 
this manner was evidence of vampire activity discovered. Members of 
a single family would begin to die, one by one. If the Wampyr had no 
relatives,they would pull on the church bell,signalling death for all that 
heard it. 

Once a vampire was detected, the first family members to pass on in 
the string of deaths were exhumed. If one was found to be in 
extraordinarily good shape, various remedies could be used against 
them: They might be cut up and their bones re-arranged. A crucifix 
was often placed under the tongue and sometimes a fishing net or a 
bag of sand was placed in the coffin. Only one grain of sand could be 
removed each year,or one knot undone,keeping the vampire away for a 
very long time. 

According to Dion Fortune - a brilliant occultist - the "soul body" lives 
on for about 3 days after the death of the physical body, then it dies 
also, forcing the remaining essence of the person to go on. If the 
person is knowledged in the occult, they may choose to remain on 
earth by latching onto a human victim who is weak or morally corrupt. 
Through this victim they absorb the life's energy of others. Taking 
blood is one method of doing this. They cannot take the life's force of 


66 



their victim, as he would die, so they possess him and force him to 
take the blood of others. ...just something to think about. 

Upyr were originally spirits of death and predate the sky gods. 

(much of the information on Polish vampirism was e-mailed to me, the 
author was unknown - so no credit could be given) 

• Wila, Vily, Vile, Veles in Lithuanian (VEE-lah) 

Female fairy-like spirits who live in the wilderness and sometimes 
clouds. They were believed to be the spirits of women who had been 
frivolous in their lifetimes and now floated between here and the 
afterlife. They sometimes appear as the swans, snakes, horses, falcons, 
or wolves that they can shapeshift into but usually appear as beautiful 
maidens, naked or dressed in white with long flowing hair. It is said 
that if even one of these hairs is plucked, the Wila will die, or be 
forced to change back to her true shape. A human may gain the control 
of a Wila by stealing feathers from her wings.Once she gets them 
back, however, she will disappear. 

The voices of the Wila are as beautiful as they, and one who hears 
them loses all thoughts of food, drink or sleep, sometimes for days. 
Despite their feminine charms, however, the Wila are fierce warriors. 
The earth is said to shake when they do battle. They have healing and 
prophetic powers and are sometimes willing to help mankind. Other 
times they lure young men to dance with them, which according to 
their mood can be a very good orvery bad thing for the lad. They ride 
on horses or deer when they hunt with their bows and arrows and will 
kill any man who defies them or breaks his word. Fairy rings of deep 
thick grass are left where they have danced which should never be trod 
upon (bad luck). 

Offerings for Wila consist of round cakes, ribbons, fresh fruits and 
vegetables or flowers left at sacred trees and wells and at fairy caves. 


• The Vodonoi - Wydjanoj in Polish (vohd-YAH-noy) 

Male water spirits from "Woda" - water. Master shape-shifters, they 
sometimes appear as old men with long green or white beards, 
sometimes as creatures with huge toes, claws, horns, a tail and burning 
eyes in a human face. At times they look like fat old bald men and 
other times like mossy looking fish or flying tree trunks. If he takes on 


67 



human form, you will know him by the water oozing from the left side 
of his coat. Vodonoi are said to live in underwater palaces made from 
the treasures from sunken ships and often marry Russalki. 

They are usually malicious and are believed to he in wait for human 
victims and drag them under the water to their death. Dark marks on 
the bodies' of drowning victims were thought to be bruises from their 
struggle with the Vodonoi. Retrieving a drowned body was thought to 
anger the Vodonoi who wanted to keep their spoils. A Vodonik may 
be appeased by pouring butter into the water or offering him your first 
fish. To employ the Vodonoi's aid in fishing, throw a pinch of tobacco 
into the water and say loudly "Here's your tobacco, Lord Vodonik, 
now give me a fish". 

* Zaltys 

The world serpent who lay coiled at the roots of the great world tree. 
He was the arch enemy of Perun, at whom Perun seemed to aim much 
of his lightening. 


The Greater Pantheon 

• Baba Jaga - (BAH-bah YAH-gah) Jezi Baba in Polish (YEH-zhee 
BAH-bah) 

"Grandmother Bony-shanks". A terrifying Witch who flew through the 
air in a mortar using the pestle as a rudder and sweeping away her 
tracks with a broom. She lived in a revolving house which stood on 
chicken legs. Her fence was made of human bones and was topped 
with skulls. The keyhole was a mouth filled with sharp teeth. She 
would aid those who were strong and pure of heart and eat those who 
were not. I see her as a Goddess of death and initiation. 


• Bialobyg (byah-WOH-book) 

White God from "bialy" - white. He is not an an actual God. Bialobog 
is really a title for the reigning sky God. The ancient Slavs believed 


68 



that to name something was to invoke it, therefore allegories were 
made up for whatever deity was being spoken of. Later, he became 
associated with the Christian God. He was said to appear as an old 
man with a long white beard, dressed in white and carrying a staff. He 
appeared only by day and often assisted travellers in finding their way 
out of dark forests or reapers in the fields. 

• Czarnobyg (char-NOH-book) 

Black God from "czarne" - black. Allegory for any Earth deity, usually 
Veles. Sometimes used as a nickname for Kolschei. Later, this deity 
was associated with the Christain Satan, and took on a much more 
negative aspect. 

• Dazhdbyg (DAHZHd-book) 

Giver God from "dati" - to give.The sun personified - may be the same 
as Khors. This son of Swiantowid emerged from his Eastern palace 
every morning in a two wheeled, diamond chariot, pulled by twelve 
fire-breathing horses with manes of gold. He would travel across the 
heavens each day through his twelve kingdoms (zodiac signs?). Some 
believed that he emerged each day as a beautiful infant and would age 
until his death as an old man in the West. Dazhdbyg was also a god of 
justice who sat seated on a purple throne surrounded by his seven 
judges (the planets?) The morning and evening stars, seven 
messengers who fly across the heavens with fiery tails(comets) and 
sometimes, Mjestjas, his bald uncle - the moon. In some legends, 
Mjesyas is his wife. He has many children who, according to legend, 
live among the stars and the Russian people, who call themselves 
"Dazhdbog's grandchildren." 


• Dzarowit (jahr-OH-veet) or Jarovit (yar-OH-veet) 

God of war. Same root name as Jarilo - youth and springtime. The 
historian, Herbord, equated him with Mars. His sacred symbol seems 
to have been the shield. When his temple at Wolgast was destroyed in 
1128, those entering it in search of idols found only a gigantic shield. 
Afraid of the crowds gathering outside, Bishop Otto's men took the 
shield to hide behind as they exited. On sight of moving shield the 


69 



people threw themselves upon the ground thinking that it was the god 
himself. 

Dzarowit is thought to be one of four seasonal aspects of Swiantowid, 
the aspect ruling Springtime and looking toward the West. He may be 
related to Jarilo; In Dzarowit's name his priests proclaimed "I am your 
god who covers the plains with grass and the forests with leaves. The 
produce of the fields and woods, the young of the cattle and all things 
that serve man's needs are in my power." 

from Gimbutas - "The Slavs" pi60 


• Dodola from "doit" - to give milk. A South Slavic cloud/rain 
goddess. Rain was thought to be a form of divine milk, sometimes 
thought to be from Dodola, sometimes the milk of Mokosh. Often, the 
clouds were perceived to be heavenly women or even cows. In Serbia, 
the rites of Dodola were kept up until quite recently: During a drought 
a girl, called Dodola, clad only in greenery and flowers was led 
through the village while her companions sang "Dodola" songs: 

We pass through the village, and the clouds across the sky. We go 
quicker, and the clouds go quicker, But the clouds have overtaken us 
and have bedewed the fields. 

We go through the village, and the clouds across the sky, 
and see, a ring drops from the clouds. 

- W.R.Ralston p.227-229 

Afterwards, the girl dances and spins while the woman douse her with 
water. This practice is thought to convince the heavenly women, 
clouds, to rain upon the earth, represented by the greenery. The custom 
has survived in the Polish Dyngus-smigus Easter custom 

• Dziewona (jeh-VOH-nah) 

This huntress was said to run throughout the Carpathian forests. A 
version of Diana whose legend is probably due to contact with the 
Romanians. 

• Jarilo (yah-REE-loh) 

The Young Lord - from "jaru" - young, ardent, Springtime, bright, 
rash. He is a beautiful, barefoot youth wearing a long white robe. His 


70 



head is crowned with a wreath of flowers and he rides a white horse. 
He is seen holding a bunch of wheat ears in his left hand and a skull in 
his right. 

He is a god of youth and sexuality whose symbol was often the 
phallus. He is a dying and resurrected God whose funeral was 
celebrated during the rites of Kupalo. 


• Jurata (yoo-RAH-tah) 

A Baltic Sea Goddess who took the form of a mermaid. She was said 
to live in an underwater palace made of amber polished to look like 
gold. The mighty Perun fell in love with her beauty, but Jurata had 
eyes only for a human fisherman. The jealous God of Thunder send 
down a bolt of lightning which killed both Jurata and her fisherman. 
When pieces of amber wash ashore, they are said to be pieces of 
Jurata's ruined palace. 

Another version of this myth has her palace and lover destroyed by her 
own sea father who disapproved of her romance with a mere mortal. 
Duming storms it is said one may still here her lamenting over the loss 
of her lover.(Poland) 

• Khors 

Probably a Sun God, from the Iranian word "khursid". May be the 
same as Dazhdbog, as there are some references to "Khors Dazhdbog". 
Others believe him to be a God of the Moon. The root of the word 
"xorovod" a circle dance, comes from his name. 

• Koljada (koh-LYAH-da) 

a seasonal deity of the winter solstice. See Kupalo below. 


• Kupalo (koo-PAH-woh) 

Although many references are made to this diety either being a water 
Goddess or another version of the sacrificial god, Jarilo, as best as I 
can acertain, Kupalo is a "seasonal" deity of the Summer Solstice 
sometimes representing the summer sun. It was customary in Slavic 
culture to create an effigy named after the holiday which they were 


71 



welcoming in. At the end of the holiday, the effigy was torn apart and 
tossed into the fields. 

• Lada (LAH-dah, WAH-dah) 

Lada is the Slavic goddess of love, beauty and domestic harmony. In 
Russia, when a couple is happily married, it is said they "live in lada", 
in love. Lad is also a word meaning "peace, union, harmony" as in the 
proverb "When a husband and wife have lad, they don't require klad 
(Treasure)" - Ralston, p. 105. She is said to reside in the underworld, 
vrij, until the Vernal Equinox, Maslenica, when she returns, bringing 
the lark and springtime with her. Like Jarilo, Lada is often portrayed as 
a goddess who is born and dies yearly. Her sacred tree is the 
lime/linden, supposedly because its leaves are shaped like hearts. As a 
Slavonian love song goes: 

"As the bee is drawn by the linden-bloom (or lime-perfume), 

My heart is drawn by thee." - Leldnd, p.138 

One story has her married to Swarog who without her could not have 
created the world. Other sources give her a brother/lover named Lado 
which would make them divine twins such as Freya and Frey. There is 
also some mention of her two sons, Lei & Polel, and that of a 
daughter, Liuli or Lielia. She and her daughter are the Rozhanitsy - 
Goddesses of a child's fate 

• Lado (LAH-doh, WAH-doh) 

"I fear thee not, O wolf! The god with the sunny curls will not let thee 
apporach. Lado, O Sun-Lado." - W.R.Ralston, p.105 

Partner of Lada, Lado is compared to Frey and considered a solar deity 
by some. In one old chronicle, Lado is called "The God of marriage, of 
mirth, of pleasure and of general happiness" to who those about to 
marry offered sacrifice to ensure a good union. 

• Lei 

Son of Lada who, according to Pushkin, is the Slavic version of the 
Greek Hymen - god of marriage. 


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• Marzanna (mahr-ZAH-nah), Marena 

Death and winter personified, the Marzanna appeared as an old woman 
dressed in white. Annually, an effigy of her was made, escorted to the 
edge of the village and thrown out. In Poland ist was burned then 
"drowned". This was customary as both the fire of the sun, and the 
rainwaters were needed for the fertility of the crops. 

• Matka or Mata Syra Zjemlja (MAHT-kah SlHR-ah ZHYEM- 
yah) 

"...Matushka Zemlia, Mother Earth, giving suck from bountiful breasts 
to countless children. When the peasants spoke of Matushka Zemlia, 
their eyes, usually dull and expressionless, were flooded with love, 
like the eyes of children who see their mother at a distance." - Shmarya 
Levin 

Moist Mother Earth, seems to have never been personified as other 
Earth Goddesses were (given human form), but worshipped in her 
natural form. She may, however, be the same Goddess as Mokosh. 
Along with the ancestral worship shown in the belief in household 
spirits, Earth worship was most adamantly clung to despite the 
Christianizing of the Slavic world. She had absolute sanctity and no 
one was allowed to strike her or begin farming until her birthgiving 
time at Maslenica. Memorial day and Assumption day (sorry -1 have 
no dates as of yet) were her name days so no plowing or digging could 
be done then. Anyone spitting on the Earth had to beg her forgiveness. 

Property disputes were settled by calling her to witness the justice of 
the claims. Oaths and marriages were confirmed by swallowing a 
clump of earth or holding it on the head. Boundaries were measured 
while walking them with a clump of earth on the head. Villages were 
protected from cattle plague & epidemic by plowing a furrow around 
them to release Mother Earth's power. If no priest was present, sins 
were confessed to the earth and into the 20th century survived the 
custom of begging the Earth's forgiveness prior to death. 

Earth worship was transferred to the cult of Mary and is why she is 
such a central part of Slavic Christianity. Unlike other nature deities, 
Mata Syra Zemlja was never personified as a Goddess with human 
features. 


73 



In the early 1900’s to save their village from plague of cholera the 
older women circled the village at midnight quietly getting the 
younger women to come out. Without the men's knowledge, they 
chose nine maidens and three widows who were led out of the village 
and undressed down to their shifts. The maidens let their hair down, 
white shawls covered the heads of the widows. They armed 
themselves with ploughs and items of frightening appearance such as 
animal skulls.The maidens took up scythes and the entire procession 
marched around the village, howling and shrieking, while ploughing a 
deep furrow to release the spirits of the Earth. Any man who came 
upon the procession was felled by the maidens "without mercy". 

• Mjesjac (MYEH-syahnts) 

The Moon Deity- Sometimes seen as "The Sun's old bald uncle", 
sometimes his wife who grows older every winter as she moves away 
from her husband across the sky. In the summer, her youth returns and 
they are once again re-united and remarried. 

• Mokosz (MOH-kosh) 

Some believe her name means "moisture" and therefore believe her to 
be the personified version of Mat' Syra Ziemlja (Moist Mother Earth). 
Images of her survive to this day in Russian embroidery with arms 
raised, flanked by two horsemen. She is usually describedas having a 
large head & long arms. In Onolets, she was believed to walk abroad 
or spin wool at night and if a sheep mysteriously lost it's hair, it meant 
that Mokosh had sheared them. 

Mokosh is associated with weaving, spinning, and perhaps that is why 
she is seen as the Goddess of fate. As all forms of cloth making and 
embroidery are ritually and magically done, she is seen as the Goddess 
of Magic. She is also a Goddess of fertility and bounty often portrayed 
holding a horn or cornucopia. Some sources say she rules over occult 
knowledge and divination. She is also sometimes referred to as wife of 
Swarog which would then create a marriage of "heaven" and "earth". 
Rybakov called her the Great Mother Goddess of the Slavs. 

16th century church chronicles contain a question posed to women 
parishoners "Did you not go to Mokosz?" It was believed that if 
Mokosz were pleased with the women's offerings, she would help the 


74 



women with their laundry. This helps to support some people's theory 
that Mokosz was actually a water Goddess. As a wandering goddess, 
she is thought to be tied into the fertility of the earth and rain is 
sometimes called "Mokosz milk." 

Mokosz has survived in the legends of Mokosha - minor female spirits 
who punish women for spinning on Friday, Mokosh sacred day. Her 
worship was transfered to that of St. Paraskeva-Friday. 

Mokosh's day is Friday - her feast day is on the Friday between Oct 25 
and Nov 1. She was given offerings of vegetables which seem to have 
been the focal point of the day. One reference fixes this date on Oct 
28. 


• Perun - Piyrun in Polish (PYOO-run) 

God of thunder from "per, perk or perg" - to strike. He is described as 
a rugged man with a copper beard. He rides in a chariot pulled by a he- 
goat and carries a mighty axe, or strely, sometimes a hammer. This axe 
is hurled at evil people and spirits and will always return to his hand., 
and of oak. The word strela can mean either axe or arrow, i.e. bolt and 
strela are hung on hourses to protect them from storms, restore milk to 
cows, ease labor and grant good luck to newborns and newlyweds. 

His lighting bolts were believed to pass through the earth to a certain 
depth and return gradually to the surface in a specific period of time - 
usually 7 yrs 40days. People, rocks and trees struck by lightening are 
considered to be sacred for the heavenly fire remains inside them. In 
1652 a Lithuanian man was recorded to have eaten the ashes of a 
leather saddle burned by lightening. He believed his action would save 
him from illness and give him oracular powers and the ability to conjur 
fire. 

All big trees were sacred to Perun, but he especially loved the oak. 
There are records of oaks being fenced in as sacred to him. Sacrifices 
to him usually consisted of a rooster, but on special occasions, bear, 
bull or he-goat might be killed. The sacrificed animal was then 
communally eaten as they were seen to be imbued with the power of 
their patron God. Eating the god's animal to absorb the god's essence is 
similar to and predates the ritual of Holy Communion. 


75 




Perun's arch enemy was the zaltys, a great serpent curled at the base of 
the world tree. Somehow, this also put him on Weles' blacklist and 
worship of these two gods had to be kept separate. 

Temples to Perun tended to be octagonal and on high ground. An idol 
of him set outside the castle of Vladmir was said to have a silver head 
and gold moustache - in some accounts, gold mouth. When Vladmir 
tore down the idol, it was tied to a horses tail and dragged to the 
Dnieper. Amid much weeping it was then tossed in as men with poles 
made sure that he was not washed ashore or pulled out. It eventually 
floated down river and was blown onto a sandbank still known as 
Perun's bank. Perun's holy day is Thursday, his feast day is the 20th of 
July. 


76 



Porevit 


from the root "pora" which means midsummer. This God, who was 
worshiped at Rugen, is thought to be one of the four seasonal aspects 
of Swiantovid facing South and ruling over summer. A temple of his 
in Garz was destroyed in the 12th century by Danish King Waldemar. 

* Rod and Rodenica, Rozhenitsa 

Literally creator and creatrix from the root verb, "dati" - to give birth. 
They seem to be the original "Lord and Lady" who created the 
universe. Swarog gained control later on, seemingly, with Rod's 
permission by becoming the Rod. The Rozhenitsa is Lada, his wife. 
Ceremonial meals in their honor were denounced by the church. These 
meatless meals usually consisted of cottage cheese, mead, bread and 
porridge. 

Rod survived as a sort of Slavic penate, household god. His worship 
was at the center of the older ancestor cults. The rozhenitsy (pi,) Lada 
and Lielia survived as a mother-daughter team of glowing white fairies 
who visited children at their birth and determined each baby's fate. 

* Ruevit 

From the root "Ruenu" which was the Slavonic autumnal month 
named for the mating calls of the newly matured animals. Worshipped 
on the Island of Rugen, this God is thought to be one of the four 
seasonal aspects of Swiantowid ruling Autumn and facing East. 

* Rugievit 

God of Rugen, may be the same as Ruevit. His temple at Garz 
consisted of a large wooden structure with an inner room which had 
four posts and a roof and was decorated with purple hangings. His oak 
statue had seven heads (faces, probably) and seven swords in his 
girdle, an eighth in his hand. 

* Simargl 

A winged griffin or dog that probably came to the Slavs through their 
Sarmatian overlords. In Sarmatian myth, Simourg (Simargl) guarded 


77 



the tree which produced the seed to every species of plant. He also was 
responsible for the dispursement of these seeds and thus is connected 
with vegetative fertility. According to some, Simargl is another name 
for Svarozich, son of Svarog and is therefore the God of fire. 

• Slava 

A beautiful bird - a messenger of God Perun, every feather of which 
was said to shine a different color. This beautiful bird was called 
MATEPb CBA (Mater Sva) which can be translated either as Mater 
Slava (Mother Glory), Mater svex (Mother of everyone) or Mater Sova 
(Mother Owl - which may be why much of Russian Folk art depicts an 
owl). This flame colored bird usually appeared in the critical moment 
and pointed with its wing the direction in which an army should go. 
Everyone knew that either glory or a glorious death awaited the 
warriors and the prince had no choice but to follow the bird’s lead. She 
is probably the forerunner of the Firebird. 

• Stribyg (SHTREE-book) 

From "srei"-to flow or from the Iranian "srira" beautiful, a common 
epithet for the wind. Grandfather of the winds. According to 
E.G.Kagarov, Stribog was a deity of wind, storms and dissension. He 
was supposed to bring the frost but somehow, also wealth. 

•Swaryg (SHVAR-ook) 

From "svargas" - radiant sky, "svarati" - gleams. His name survives in 
the Romanian word for sunburnt or hot - sfarog. A smith god, 
identified with Hephaestis, he was associated with fire & with it's 
generative power, particularly sexual. He created the Gods with 
strokes of his smithing hammer upon the great stone, Alatir. He is the 
father of Dazhbog (the sun) and Swarowicz - or Ogon, the celestial 
and hearth fires, respectively. A master craftsman, he could shapeshift 
into the wind, a golden-horned aurochs (ox), boar, horse, or the falcon, 
Varagna which was his main incarnation. 

Swarog was concerned only with heavenly affairs and left the earthly 
ones to his son. Unfortunately for his children, Perun was a much 


78 



stronger war god and took over the role as chief deity of the warrior 
classes. 

Swarog may be the "divine light" of God which in turn produced both 
the Celestial & Terrestrial fires. 


• Swarozhicz/Swarowicz (shvar-OH-zheech/veech) 

God of fire personified. As the name literally means "Swarog's son", 
all of Swarog's children would be called Swarozhich i.e. "Dazhdbog 
Swarozhich", therefore, Swarowicz is a term that could be applied to 
any of Swarog's children. Some sources mention Dazhbog's brother as 
Ogon, meaning "fire". Most believe that the God of fire's name could 
not be spoken aloud, so people would refer to him by his title as 
Swarog's son. Jehovah was originally a fire god who's name could not 
be spoken aloud. Because of this, possibly the true names of both have 
been lost forever. 


• Swiatowid (shvyan-TOH-veed), Sventovit 

From "svent" - strong, or perhaps "sventu" - 
Iranian for holy. God of war and protector 
of fields. His gender is not fixed as male, 
though, for his statue in Galica, Poland had 
2 male sides and 2 female sides. 

Swiantowid had his own white horse only 
ridden by the high priest. He was believed 
to accompany anyone who went to war seated upon it. Before a war, 
the horse was led down a row of crossed spears. If he walked the row 
without catching a hoof on a spear it was a good omen. 

His temple at Arkona was described thus: One door, a red roof and 
strong walls ornamented in relief with all kinds of roughly painted 
carvings. The outer walls were made of vertical wooden posts 
enclosing an area more than 20m square. Inside was decorated with 
ornaments, purple items and animal horns. An inner room consisting 
of a roof supported by four columns and hung with purple rugs 
contained a sunken base for a huge idol of the god. The idol held a 
drinking horn in his right hand. Mead was poured into it at harvest, the 
higher the level reached, the better next year's crop was purported to 



79 






be. Swiatowid may be an aspect of or Western Slavonic version of 
Swarog. 

• Triglav (TREE-glahv) 

Triglav was a three-faced deity, symbolizing the dominion over the 
three realms - sky, earth, and the underworld. Triglav was shown 
blindfolded, supposedly because the god was too sacred to view the 
evils of the earth, and his temple at Stettin was richly sculpted both 
inside and out and decorated with war booty on the inside. 

• Vesna 

"Spring". A Vernal Goddess, possible Serbian in origin, possibly 
another name or taboo-title for Lada. 

• Weles, Volos (VEH-less, VOH-lohs) 



The Slavic Horned lord, ruled horned animals, wealth and the 
underworld. He is believed to have survived from the time of a 
common Indo-European pantheon. He was also a god of trade and 
oaths were sworn in his name. Weles is also the God of poets and 


80 



bards and is often associated with magick. He was later associated 
with St. Bias, guardian of cattle. 

At Kiev, his statue was not among those on the hill outside the palace 
but was instead, erected in the marketplace. This is supposedly 
because he and Perun are great enemies and couldn't be worshipped 
together. 

• The Zorya - (ZOR-yah) 

These daughters of Dazhdbog are the Auroras of dawn and dusk, and 
sometimes have a third sister, midnight (perhaps, Polunocnica) 
however, this makes little sense as the name, "Zorya" literally means 
"dawn." It is more probably that modern artists and neo-Pagans have 
added the third Zorya in order to "Wiccify" her as most in the Slavic 
system is dual and Polunocnica has a sister/counterpart, Poludnica - 
Lady Noon. The Zorya are the Guardians of the God or hound, which 
is chained to the constellation, Ursa Major. Like the Fenris wolf of the 
Norse mythos , this creature will destroy the world if it ever breaks 
free. The custom of making the colourful eggs, pysanky, is somehow 
supposed to strengthen the links in his chain. 

Each morning, Zorya Utrenyaya opens the gates of Dazhdbog's 
Eastern palace so he may ride across the sky. In the evening, Zorya 
Vechernyaya closes the gates after her father's daily ride is finished. 
Their other two sisters, Zezhda Dennitsa and Vechernyaya Zezhda, the 
morning star and evening star are the caretakers of their father's horses 
and are sometimes considered to be the same two goddesses. These 
Goddesses, associated with Venus, are sometimes merged into one 
warrior Goddess, Zorya, who hides and protects warriors with her veil 
(see her prayer on the Slavic Magick page.) 


81 



Slavic Pagan Songs 


English Translations of some Slavic Pagan Songs 

Moist Mother Earth, subdue every evil and 

unclean being so that he may not cast a spell on us nor do us any harm. 
Moist Mother Earth, engulf the unclean power in thy boiling pits, in 
thy burning fires. 

Moist Mother Earth, calm the Winds coming from the South 
and all bad weather. Calm the moving sands and whirlwinds. 

Moist Mother Earth, calm the North Winds and the clouds, subdue the 
snowstorms and the cold. 

Mother Earth, giving suck from bountiful breasts to countless children. 
When the peasants spoke of Matushka Zemlia, their eyes, usually dull 
and expressionless, were flooded with love, like the eyes of children 
who see their mother at a distance. 

If you don't give us a tart - We’ll take your cow by the horns. 

If you don't give us a sausage - We'll grab your pig by the head. 

If you don't give us a bliny - We’ll give the host a kick. 

The rooks have come. 

Oh little bee, Ardent bee! 

Fly out beyond the sea. 

Get out the keys, the golden keys. 

Lock up winter, cold winter 
Unlock summer, warm summer. 

Warm summer - 
A summer fertile in grain. 

Our Dear Maslenica, dear, leli, dear 

Came for a while, for a while, leli, for a while 

We thought for seven weeks, seven weeks, leli, seven weeks 

But Maslenica stayed only seven days, seven days, leli, seven days 

And Maslenica deceived us, deceived us, leli, deceived us 


82 



To lent she offered a seat, offered a seat, leli, offered a seat 
Bitter horseradish she put out, put out, leli, put out 
And that horseradish is more bitter than xren, more bitter than xren, 
leli, more bitter than xren. 

Turn out well, turn out well, my flax. 

Turn out well, my white flax. 

Water of death to water of life. We infuse you with the healing light. 

Let us honor the Rusalki's return from the watery otherworld. With 
each step of their sacred xorovods, they bring moisture and life to the 
fields. With their arboreal ascent, the trees burst into leaf and bud. We 
salute you, water women, and invite you and all other friendly spirits 
of water and woodland, to enter our sacred circle. Hail & Welcome. 

Let us turn our thoughts to the strengthening of the Sun king, 
Dahzhdbog, the celestial fire, who now moves toward the apex of his 
glory. Let us think of Svarovich, his divine brother of the terrestrial 
fire, the first fruit of wisdom plucked from the flaming tree of 
knowledge without whom our lives would be ever dim. Let us think of 
the fire which rages within the belly of our great Mother Earth. And 
finally let us call Swarog, the divine light which shines within and 
about us all. Hail & Welcome. 

Let us now bring our attention to the belly of our Moist mother earth, 
womb of all who seek entrance into this life, and when this life is 
done, womb of all who seek entrance to the next. May she, and the 
Gods of Vrij grant passage to the spirits of those we have loved who 
have gone before us, that they may join us in today's feasting and 
celebration. Hail and Welcome. 

The kumits'ja ceremony was performed to ensure a life-long bond 
between friends. Whomever you choose to kiss through the kumits'ja 
wreaths while we dance to raise the energy, will be your friend for life. 
This is not a spell to be taken lightly, so choose carefully or not at all. 

Let it be so 

We invite you, Gods and Goddesses of our people, Sovereigns of the 
sacred realms of Nav, Prav & Yav, to join us in our feasting and 
celebration. We invite you, O Spirits of Nature, otherworldly creatures 
of forest and field. Join us in love and trust in our feasting and 
celebration. We invite you, ancestors and loved ones who have gone 


83 



before us to pass through the gates of Vij and join in our feasting and 
celebration with those whom they love. Hail and Welcome. 

In times of yore, our ancestors would give to the river a young girl. 

Her soul was said to be taken by the water women where she would 
join their rank. Without this offering, it was believed that the number 
of water women would dwindle and they would soon die off, never 
again to bring moisture to the vegetative world. All would wither and 
die. 

Our offerings have changed, but not our devotion. We give you, 
Rusalki, this humble offering, that you may receive thanks and know 
that your work does not go unnoticed. 

The River is Flowing 

Ancestors, loved ones, those of the land of Vij, we thank you for your 
presence here. Hail and Farewell. 

Rusalka, Nature Spirits, Protectors of the Mother, welcome back to our 
Realm, and thank You for Your presence here. Hail and Farewell. 

Shining Ones, Gods and Goddesses, Sovereigns and Creators, thank 
you for your presence here. Hail and Farewell. 

Moist Mother Earth, doorway to life in this world and the next, We 
humbly beg your forgiveness for the times we have not trod gently 
upon your flesh, have not felt as one with your presence. Hear us now 
as we give you our oath to be kinder and more responsible for your 
well being. 

Our circle is done, our rite is over, may the Gods be your guides and 
the Zorya protect you. 

I, a young girl, am going to the quiet meadow, the quiet meadow. 

To the quiet meadow, to a little birch. 

I, a young girl, will pick a blue cornflower, 

A little blue cornflower, a cornflower. 

I, a young girl, will weave a wreath. 

I, a young girl, will go to the river. 

I will throw the wreath down the river. 

I will think about my sweetheart 
My wreath is drowning, drowning. 

My heart is aching, aching. 

My wreath will drown. 


84 



My sweetheart will abandon me. 

Don't rejoice oak trees. Don’t rejoice green ones. 

Not to you are the girls coming. Not to you, the pretty ones. 

Not to you are they bringing pies, pastries, omelettes. 

Yo, Yo Semik and Trinity! 

Rejoice birches! Rejoice green ones! 

To you the girls are coming! 

To you they are bringing pies, pastries, omelettes. 

Yo, yo Semik and Trininty. 

Oh birch, so curly, curly and young, 

Under you, little birch, no poppy is blooming. 

Under you, little birch, no fire is burning - 
No poppy is blooming - 
Pretty maids are dancing a xorovod, 
about you little birch, they are singing songs. 

Perkons! Father! Thy children lead this faultless victim to thy altar. 
Bestow, O Father, they blessing on the plough and on the corn. May 
golden straw with great well-filled ears rise abundantly as rushes. 

Drive away all black haily clouds to the great moors, forests, and large 
deserts, where they will not frighten mankind; and give sunshine and 
rain, gentle falling rain, in order that the crops may thrive! 

Until dinner, it's summer. After dinner, it's autumn. 

Dedushka Dobrokhot, Please come into my house and tend the flocks. 

Grandfather Domovoi, help me chase away this intruder. 

Leshi, Forest Lord, Come to me now; not as a grey wolf, not as a black 
raven, not as a flaming fir tree, but as a man. 

In the ocean sea, on the island of Buyan, there live three brothers, three 
winds: the first Northern, the second Eastern and the third Western. 

Waft, O winds, bring on (_) sorrow and dreariness so that 

without me s/he may not be able to spend a day nor pass an hour! 

I, (_), stand still, uttering a blessing. 

I go from the room to the door, from the courtyard to the gates. 

I go out into the open field to the Eastern side. On the Eastern side 


85 



stands an cottage. In the middle of the izba lies a plank, under the 
plank is the longing. 

The longing weeps. The longing sobs, waiting to get at the white light. 
The white light, the fair sun, waits, enjoys itself, and rejoices. 

So may she/he wait, longing to get to me, and having done so, may he 
enjoy himself and rejoice! And without me let it not be possible for 
him to live, nor to be, nor to eat, nor to drink; neither by the morning 
dawn, nor by the evening glow. 

As a fish without water, as a babe without its mother, without its 
mother's milk, cannot live, so may she/he, without me, not be able to 
live, nor to be, nor to eat, nor to drink, nor by the evening glow; 
neither every day, not at mid-day, nor under the many stars, nor 
together with the stormy winds. Neither under the sun by day, nor 
under the moon by night. 

Plunge thyself, O longing, gnaw thy way, O longing, into his/her 
breast, into his/her heart; grow and increase in all his/her veins, in all 
his bones, with pain and thirst for me! 

Oh Virgin, unsheath your father's sacred sword. 

Take up the breastplate of your ancestors. 

Take up your powerful helmet. 

Bring forth your steed of black. 

Fly forth to the open field, 

There, where the great army with countless weapons is found. 

Oh, Virgin, cover me with your veil. 

Protect me against the power of the enemy 
Against guns and arrows, warriors and weapons; 

Weapons of wood, of bone, of copper, of iron and steel. 

Dear Father, tsar fire, 

Be gentle and kind to me. 

Burn away all my aches & pains, tears & worries. 

O righteous Sun! Do thou in my foes, my rivals, my opposers, in the 
powers that be, and public officials, and in all people of good mouth 
and heart, parch up evil thoughts and deeds, so that they may not rise 
up, may not utter words baleful for me! 

As this corpse has died unrepentant, so may you too die, unrepentant. 


86 



Tatyana curiously gazes 
At the prophetic waxen mold, 

All eager in its wondrous mazes 
A wonderous future to behold. 

Then from the basin someone dredges, 
Ring after ring, the player's pledges, 

And comes her ringlet, they rehearse 
The immemorial little verse: 

"There all the serfs are wealthy yeomen, 
They shovel silver with a spade; 

To whom we sing, he shall be made 
Famous and rich!" But for ill omen 
They take this plaintive ditty's voice; 
Koshurka is the maiden's choice 

The ring was rolling 
Along the velvet 
The ring rolled up 
To the ruby. 

For one who takes it out 
For her it will come true, 

For her it will come true, 

She will not escape 
A Maple entwined with a birch 
It did not untwine - Lada, Lada 
Whoever takes it out 
For her it will come true, 

All will be well. 

A little cat is sitting 
In a wicker basket 
She is sewing a towel. 

She will marry the tom 
For whom we are singing 
All will be well. 

A rooster was digging 
on a little mound of Earth 
The rooster dug up 
A little pearl. 

For whoever gets it 


87 



All will be well. 

A calyx is floating from somewhere beyond the sea. 

To wherever it floats, there it will blossom. 

Whoever takes it out - For her will it come true. 

She will not escape - glory! 

The sleigh stands, ready to go - Glory! 

In it the cushions are all arranged - Glory! 

It stands near the forest, waiting to go for a ride - Glory! 

To whom we sing this song, all will be well. 

It will come true, she will not escape - Glory. 

I sat - by a window 
I waited - for my beloved 
I could no longer wait 
I fell asleep. 

In the morning -1 awoke 
I suddenly - realized 
I am a widow. 

To whom we sing, all will come true. 

A dandy once took a very sharp axe - Lileju 
The dandy went out - into the wide courtyard. 

The dandy began - to hew some boards 
To nail the wood - into an oaken coffin 
Whomever this song reaches, 

For her it will come true 
She will not escape 

Mother Zorya of morning and evening and midnight! as ye quietly 
fade away and disappear, so may both sicknesses and sorrows in me, 

(_), quietly fade and disappear - those of the morning, and of the 

evening, and of midnight! 

We pass through the village, and the clouds across the sky. We go 
quicker, and the clouds go quicker, 

But the clouds have overtaken us and have bedewed the fields. 

We go through the village, and the clouds across the sky, 
and see, a ring drops from the clouds. 


88 



Organised pagan cult in Kievan Rus ? 


The invention of foreign elite or evolution of local tradition? 
by Roman Zaroff 

Abreviations 

RPC - - Russian Primary Chronicle 
SIC - Song of the Igor's Campaign 


Introduction 

According to the Laurentian version of the "Russian Primary 
Chronicle", in the year 980: 

"... ( Vladimir) set up idols on the hills outside the castle: one of Perun, 
made of wood with a head of silver and a moustache of gold, and 
others of Khors, Dazhbog, Stribog, Simargl, Mokosh". 


No doubt, this was an attempt by the Kievan ruler to organise a more 
centralised, pagan cult to facilitate state building and centralisation. 
However, on many occasions, it has been claimed that he merely 
elevated the elite cult. And the beliefs, as well as those gods, were of 
foreign origin - namely Scandinavian. However, the native Eastern 
Slavic religion was assumed to be a collection of some animistic 
beliefs with an inpersonalised "Mother Moist Earth" as a dominant, 
agricultural deity. 

Such a assumption! is a consequence of the paucity of knowledge 
about Slavic mythology. This is so for a number of reasons. First, in 
the English speaking world as far as now,no one really attempted to 
research pre-Christian Slavic religion. The subject usually occupies a 


89 



short chapter or paragraph in general publications on European 
mythology - and that is all. This is a surprising situation considering 
the fact that the Slavs are the largest linguistic sub-family in Europe, 
numbering close to 300 million people. Secondly, many publications 
do not go beyond various accepted ideas that originated in the German 
school of the 1930’s and early 1940's, championed by Erwin Winecke 
and Leonard Franz. Briefly, both Winecke and Franz claimed that 
without outside help the Slavs were incapable of developing any 
complex beliefs beyond animism due to their racial inferiority and 
needed an external stimulus from the "Master Race" to invent more 
complex beliefs or personification of their deities. Thirdly, a number 
of Russian and Soviet scholars, more or less, accepted these notions. It 
may well be that those Russians in the West, who were recruited 
predominantly from post-revolution emigres, were in general deeply 
religious and conservative. Hence, their views were biased against any 
pagan beliefs. Meanwhile, many historians in the Soviet Union 
generally treated any religion as a collection of ancient superstitions 
not worth investigating. 

The issue of this organised pagan cult of Kievan Rus' under Vladimir 
along with its emergence can be only properly investigated in a 
broader Indo-European and a common Slavic context. For that reason 
the first section of the following work will deal with the common 
Indo-European background and pre-migration Slavic beliefs. Apart 
from the deities of Vladimir’s pantheon, some other Slavic gods, that 
were mentioned in other Eastern Slavic sources, will also be 
investigated. Nevertheless, it has to be acknowledged that the 
following reconstruction of the common ancient Slavic religion is only 
partial, and explores only selected "core" concepts and deities with 
some relevance to the later Kievan cult. 

It is commonly accepted that all the Indo-European languages evolved 
from closely related Bronze Age dialects collectively tenned Proto- 
Indo-European. Further, certain similarities in names of many ancient 
deities were also observed. From this premise, a rather simplistic Indo- 
European pantheon was postulated by the early twentieth century. 

More recently a comparative analysis of Indo-European beliefs 
focussed on common functional and conceptual elements rather than 
on linguistic similarities of the god's names. Such a study was first 
attempted by an American scholar of Romanian background - Mircea 
Eliade. It was further developed and championed by French philologist 


90 




Georges Dumezil, and is now followed by the "new comparative 
school" of religious studies world-wide. This new approach focus on 
the premise that the pre-Christian beliefs of Indo-European people 
(Gennanic, Celtic, Italic, Greek, Baltic, Indian Iranian and Hittite) 
share certain concepts, ideas and anumber of deities on the functional 
level. And also, exploring the concept that that various Indo-European 
people built their own theology and mythology drawing it from a 
common tradition. However, the "new comparative school" 
acknowledges that different peoples developed their beliefs on their 
own, in different conditions and under different influences. 

The Slavs, as a culturally and linguistically distinct people, emerged in 
Eastern Europe in a relatively small area. Geographicaly the Slavic 
cradle was limited in the south by north-eastern slopes of Carpathian 
Mountains. To the West, their territory probably reached to the upper 
Vistula river in modern Poland. In the north, the Pripet marshes 
divided the proto-Slavic group from the proto-Balts. And finally, their 
eastern boundary was roughly at the Dneper river. As the linguistic 
uniformity of Slavonic languages suggests, the process of Slavic 
ethnogenesis must have been completed by the fifth century C.E. - 
prior to their migration period during the sixth and seventh centuries 
C.E. The area under discussion was under strong Iranian (to some 
extend Scythian and strongly Sarmatian) influence, during the 
firsstmillennium B.C.E. and until the third century C.E. And this 
explains the strong Iranian influence on pre-Christian Slavic religion. 
The Scythians and Sarmatians spoke dialects which are classified as 
Eastern Iranian. Nowdays the Ossetic language of the Caucasus is a 
sole survivor of this linguistic group. However, for the purpose of 
clarity, throughout this study both Scythians and Sarmatians will be 
referred to as Northern Iranians, basically employing a geographical 
rather than linguistic context. 

Taking into consideration the relatively small area where the Slavs 
emerged and that the Slavic languages did not begin to diverge 
significantly before the tenth Century C.E. , it may be assumed that 
prior to their migration period their culture and religious beliefs were 
relatively uniform. This working hypothesis is not implying that Slavic 
religion was a monolithic and solid set of beliefs, but rather like other 
tribal religions, a heterogeneous collection of various beliefs revolving 
around the same common "core" concepts. 


91 



The question of pre-migration Slavic religion will be addressed 
through a three-way approach. Firstly, by tracing common Indo- 
European concepts and ideas in Slavicreligion. Second, by searching 
for these concepts among the Eastern Slavs, especially among the 
ordinary people. And thirdly, by looking for the existence of similar 
concepts among the Western and Southern Slavs. By doing this, we 
can isolate those beliefs which were common to all Slavs from those 
which were of foreign influence or a result of later cultural 
developments in Slavdom. 


Selected deities and concepts in Slavic religion 


Most of the Indo-European mythologies shared a concept of a Sky 
god, as well as Sun and Fire worship. A common Indo-European 
world view shared a tri-partite functional division. The first function is 
sacred power and knowledge. The second, is associated with war. 
Finally, the third function covers economic activities, such as 
agriculture, animal husbandry and others. And this spiritual system is 
reflected in an organised social hierarchy, which found its greatest 
expression in the original caste division of India. There, society was 
divided into: priestly class of brahman; warriors - kuatryas; and 
farmers - Vailya. In a similar fashion the functions of principal deities 
were divided into three main spheres of sovereignity, military and the 
economic activities. In a peculiar way, the first domain wasoccupied 
by two deities in a system of dual sovereignity. For example, Indian 
Varuna and Mitra; Iranian Ashura and Mithra; Germanic Wodan/Odin 
and Tyr/Tiw; and Italic Jupiter and Dius Fides. The second function 
was the domain of war gods, such as: Indian Indra, Germanic 
Donar/Thor, Celtic Taranis, Greek Ares and Italic Mars. Moreover, 
this tri-partite view found another reflection in the division of world 
into three spheres - those of heaven, atmosphere and earth. Much of 
the Indo-European mythologies revolved around the inter-relation of 
those three separate domains. 


92 



SVAROG 


The name of a common proto-Indo-European sky deity derives from a 
word "deivos" - heavenly, and who was known in a form "Dyaus". 
Different historical and cultural developments over the millennia 
resulted in divergence from this concept but it still could be traced 
among many Indo-European people, either in its function or name. For 
example, many Indo-European languages associated a similar name 
with gods, divinities and the sky, such as: the Latin "deus" and even 
Jupiter himself whose name derived from "Dyau Pater" ,Greek - Zeus , 
Sanskrit "deva" and Dyaus. The old Germanic Tyr/Tiw and the Saxon 
god of the eight century called Tiewaz, also fall into that category. 
Baltic mythology also preserved a Sky deity known as Dievas - "the 
sky". The Balts and Slavs are culturally and linguisticaly closely 
related. Because the Baltic languages preserved many ancient Indo- 
European features it is believed that Slavic languages branched from 
the common Balto-Slavic dialects. Hence, it is logical to conclude that, 
in some form or the other, the concept of Sky god existed among the 
proto-Slavs too. At first the search for a Slavic sky god is 
disappointing as there was no deity known by the name related to the 
root "deivos" or to Lithuanian Dievas. It has been suggested by the 
Polish historian Alexander Gieysztor that Perun originated as a sky 
god. However, although Perun evinced some attributes of a sky god, 
the etymology of the name and his original functions point to the 
common Indo-European god of thunder, rain and weather. It seems 
that the Slavs abandoned the Dievas-like name of a sky god which 
they had shared withBalts while under the Northern Iranian influence. 
The old name echoes only in the term "div", which in the Slavic 
languages describes a supernatural occurence or some demoniac being. 
Despite the quite fragmentary state of available evidence, only the god 
known as Svarog fits the concept. Etymologically, the name Svarog 
fits perfectly with the sky god because of its celestial connotations. 

The root "svar" in the name of Svarog is a cognate to the Old Indian 
"svar", describing upper heavenly worlds. Further, a related word 
"svargas" means radiant sky and "svarati" shines or gleams. 

Elsewhere, in a modern Hindi "svarg" means heaven. It is worth noting 
that around that time the Slavs adopted the Iranian word for the sky 
"nebo", derived from "nebah", both initially meaning the cloud. 

The evidence for the Svarog cult among the Slavs is weak and 
sometimes confused with another deity known as Svarozhits. These 


93 



issues will be addressed in detail in the section on cosmology. In terms 
of written sources Svarog appeared in the Russian translation of John 
Malalas, a Byzantine chronicler of the sixth century. In the Slavic 
version, Hephaistos was substituted by Svarog, and Helios 
withDazhbog. The Malalas version goes as follow: 

"After the death of Hephaistos, his son Helios reigned over the 
Egyptians for.... 12 years and 97 days", and "Helios the son of 
Hephaistos, was very generous". 

In the Slavic translation we read: 

"After Svarog reigned his son, named Sun who was also called 
Dazhbog, for he was a mighty lord". 

The Slavonic version clearly indicates that the translator was fully 
aware of the mythological nature of Hephaistos and Helios resulting in 
substitutions of Slavic deities instead. Usually it has been accepted that 
the functions of both Slavic gods correspond to Greek deities: that is, 
Hephaistos and Svarog of fire; and Helios and Dazhbog of Sun. But it 
is not necessarily the case. It is reasonable to assume that the 
translator, knowing Hephaistos to be the father of Helios, introduced 
into the text two Slavic deities who were in a father-son relationship. 
So, while Dazhbog was a Sun deity, his father Svarog's domain was 
not fire. Although in this translation there is no suggestion of Svarog 
being a Sky god, another account from the other side of Europe 
supports this claim. Certain relevant Slavic myths were reported 
byHelmold of Bossau, a German clergyman of the twelfth century: 

"...one god in heavens ruling over the others. They 

(the Slavs ) hold that he, the all powerful one, looks only after 
heavenly matters; that the others, discharging the duties assigned to 
them in obedience to him, proceeded from his blood...". 

It is worthwhile noting, that the concept of a passive god is common 
among the other Indo-Europeans. Greek Uranos, a sky god, becames 
incapacitated and an inactive deity after the act of creation. In Indian 


94 



mythology Dyaus', a sky god, is also a creator whose involvement in 
earthly affairs was unclear and indirect afterwards. In the Vedic period 
his importance was surpassed by Varuna and Mitra, with Varuna 
appropriating some attributes and functions of Dyaus. Taking into 
consideration that Sun worship was widespread among the Slavs (to 
be discussed later), it seems that one of the deities fathered by the 
Slavic Sky god was Sun. This again is a common Indo-European 
concept, and in Indian mythology the Sun - Sirya is often described as 
a son of Sky (Dyaus) and Earth. Although the name of the Sky god 
wasnot mentioned by Helmold, the complementary nature of both 
stories suggests that he was referring to Svarog. 

A reinforcement for this claim that Svarog was the father of the major 
Slavonic gods comes from the name of another Slavic deity, that of 
Svarozhits, a Fire god. The ending of the name Svarozh-(its), indicates 
that he was son of Svarog. The endings "its" (spelled "icz" or "ic" in 
Polish and "ch" in Russian ), common in all Slavic languages is a 
patronymic name, and it is still in use in present day Russia. For 
example: (Ivanovich), a "son of Ivan". In other countries it has been 
preserved in surnames: like in Polish - Weostowicz , "son of Weast"; 
or in the former Yugoslavia - Josich, "son of Joseph ". Some scholars 
postulated that Svarog and Svarozhits were the same god, and that 
Svarozhits is a diminutive for Svarog. But it is highly unlikely that 
such a fierce and fear-inspiring god of fire would be addressed in such 
a disrespectful way. 

The relationship between Svarog, Svarozhits and Dazhbog, and their 
functions, has been interpreted in various ways by many different 
scholars. However, it only fits together perfectly if we accept the 
notion that Svarog was the Sky god, and furthermore that he fathered 
the Sun god ( Dazhbog) and Fire god (Svarozhits). 

The evidence for Svarog as a common Slavic deity comes mainly from 
the toponymy. Examples of it include: Swarozyn near Gdansk and 
Swarzhdz near Poznan, in Poland; Svaren in Czech Republic; and 
Svaryzh near Pskov in Russia. Morever, the name of the German 
Mecklenburgian town of Schwerin derives from its old Slavic name 
Swarzyn. According to Roman Jakobson, a American scholar of 
Russian background, Svarog under tabu names appears in places like 
Twarouna Gora in Poland and Tvarowna in the Czech Republic. 
Besides, it could be assumed that whenever or whereever Svarozhits 
(son of Svarog) was reported, it implied that the concept of Svarog, 


95 



sky god, was also known. A prime case is the tenth and eleventh 
centuries cult of Svarozhits in Eastern Germany, then inhabited by 
Slavs , indicating that the concept of sky god - Svarog - pre-dates the 
migration period. 

The explanation for the lack of a more prominent cult of Svarog lies in 
Helmold's account. The Slavic Sky god was an otiose and passive god 
who became removed from earthly affairs. Hence there is not much 
point in worshipping the "retired" deity and the cult slowly lost its 
prominence. 


DAZHBOG 

The cults of Sun is well attested among many of thelndo-European 
people. It was especially prominent among the Iranians and Medes of 
Persia, as well as among Masagetae, Scythians and Sarmatians. In case 
of the Slavs it is difficult to ascertain how "solar" their religion 
actually was. It is possible that ’solarisation" of the religion was more 
prominent among the Eastern Slavs, due to the closer and prolonged 
contacts with Northern Iranian people. Whatever the case, there is 
evidence that in Slavic religion the Sun cult played an important part. 

The Slavic Sun god was called Dazhbog, and it is reasonable to 
assume that he was a son of Svarog. The name Dazhbog could be 
translated as " giver of wealth" or " giving god". The root "bog", 
literally meaning god in all Slavic languages, is a clear Iranian 
borrowing, from Iranian "bhaga" - god. 

The widespread Sun cult of Dazhbog featured prominently among the 
Eastern Slavs, not just as a part of the Kievan pantheon of Vladimir. In 
the "Tale of Igor's Campaign", a 12th century Russian epic poem , the 
Russians are twice referred to as "Dazhbog grandsons". Also in the 
poem, aprayer of Yaroslav of Galich's daughter begins with the words: 
"Bright, thrice-bright Sun!". Regardless of the literary nature of the 
"Tale", the survival of Dazhbog in popular memory and of sun 
worship in general indicates that it was deeply rooted in Eastern Slavic 
beliefs. It definitely would not be a case of short-lived elitist cults. An 
Arab traveller A1 Masudi, reported around the middle of the 10th 
century that Eastern Slavs were sun worshipers and that they had a 
temple-like structure with opening dome with some other feature 
enabling them to watch the sunrise. Although it was most likely an 


96 



open shrine rather than a temple, it is almost certain that such 
structures were part of a sun cult. 

The name Dazhbog does not appear in other Slavic lanuages in 
association with the Sun deity. However, the name Dazhbog survived 
in the Polish personal name - Dajbog. And in Serbian folklore it 
remains as demons called Dajboga and Daba. The cult might have 
existed in German Baltic region of Wagrien among the Slavic 
Obodrites, where Helmold of Bossau reported a temple and idol at 
Plon called Podaga. The name Podaga was interpreted by Roman 
Jakobson as a corruption of Daboga or Dajboga , but this interpretation 
is questionable. Nevertheless, the remnants of a sun cult survived 
among the Slavs till recent times. This clearly demonstrating its 
importance to all the Slavs since the pre-migration period. The 
Southern Slavic peasants were known to swear an oath on the Sun, 
while Bulgarians regarded the Sun as divine. Also, customs of greeting 
the rising sun were reported all over Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia. 
Certain medieval Eastern Slavic sources reported the rural custom of 
bowing to the south (the Sun) at midday. In Germany, in the south¬ 
eastern district of Lusatia the Slavic Sorbs were reported to greet the 
raising sun before entering church on Sunday. In the Western Ukraine 
a curse was known: "May the Sun make you perish", and in Croatia 
peasants would say" May the Sun avenge me on you". And in 
Christian times the Sun has been called "God's face" or "God's eye". 
Clearly this is an echo of the old Indo-European concept where the 
Sun deity Surja is called an eye of Varuna. 

The Sun figures prominently in Slavic folklore throughout all 
Slavdom. It was believed that the Sun resided in the east, in the land of 
everlasting summer and ofplenty, inhabiting a palace made of gold. 

The morning and evening auroras were associated with the Sun and 
were regarded as two virgin divinities. They were called morning and 
evening Auroras - Zoryas in Slavic. The Zoryas stood on both sides of 
the Sun's golden throne. According to one story, the morning Zorya 
opened the palace gates when the Sun was to begin his daily journey 
across the sky, while the other one closed the gates after Sun returned 
at the evening. Similar forms of sun worship and stories about auroras, 
morning and evening stars (planet Venus), were reported in Baltic 
mythology. Also, in Iranian mythology, there were two divinities of 
dawn and dusk associated with the sun god Mithra , and Ushas as Sun 
companions in Indian mythology. There is also some indirect evidence 


97 



for the Sun cult among the Slavs. For example, depiction of a wheel or 
circle in pre-Christian, Indo-European iconography are interpreted as 
solar symbols, and a large number of such engravings were found on 
early Slavic pottery. Furthermore, in Indo-European mythology, it is 
commonly accepted that the horse is usually associated with the Sun 
cult. It was reported among many Indo-European people, such as: 
ancient Indians, Iranians,Germans, Celts, Greeks, Balts and Slavs. 
Among the Western Slavs, horses associated with the cult of Sventovit 
of Rugen, Svarozhits of Radogost and Triglav of Szczecin were 
reported. One of their important function was being used in foretelling 
the future. Although none of those later and complex cults were purely 
solar, the incorporation of a horse indicates amalgamation of solar and 
other elements. It is worth noting, that there is a saying in Russian " - 
veschiy kon’ ", meaning "prophetic horse" , indicating that use of a 
sacred horse in foretelling the future was common Slavic concept. 


SVAROZHITS 

The cult of Svarozhits, a fire god, and a son of Svarog, also shows 
common and strong Indo-European roots. Practically all Indo- 
European people worshipped fire in one or another form. It was of the 
greatest importance among the ancient Indians. The Iranians were 
regarded as fire worshipers, and were reported to swear oaths by fire. 
Also, the ancient Baltic people were reported to worship a female fire 
goddess, and to believe that fire was brought tothe earth by a thunder 
god Perkunas. In Indian a fire deity was known as Agni, meaning 
"fire", with this being a cognate to the Latin word "ignis", Lithuanian 
"ugnis" and Slavic "ogni"- fire. 

The Svarozhits cult also appears to be universal to all Slavs. Evidence 
for the cult comes from two extremes of Slavdom. According to the 
Russian source known as "Unknown Admirer of Christ (Bogolubiec) 


"They (the pagan Slavs) also address prayer to Fire, calling him 
Svarogich". 

The sancticity and divinity of fire survived into the Christian era 
among most of the Slavs. The 19th century Russian peasants would 
not spit into the fire or swear at it. Throwing a sheaf into fire was 


98 



believed to bring luck. There was also a widespread belief that fire had 
special powers. A fire started by friction using wooden sticks was 
called a "living fire" and supposed to have a healing properties. For 
example: sick cattle were driven around "living fire" lit bon-fires in the 
field to cure them. One of the spells to cast out illness, that began with 
the words: "Little Fire, Tsar-Fire", seems to be a clear reminiscence of 
the times when Firewas worshipped as a god. Igniting a "sacred fire" 
through friction is a common element of wide-spread Indo-European 
tradition. It is kn own to have been practised in ancient India , and also 
was the case with ancient Roman Vestal fire , and it was also reported 
among the Lithuanians as late as the seventeenth century. Fire was 
started in this manner as late as the first half of the twentieth century in 
some parts of rural Poland on Annunciation Day. 

In Western Slavdom the cult of Svarozhits gained prominence among 
the Veletian people, a branch of the Polabian Slavs. It was a regional 
deity and its major temple stood at Radogost, near modern 
Neuebrandenburg, in eastern Germany. This elaborate cult was an 
amalgamation of various elements of Slavic religious traditions and it 
can not be totally equated with the Slavic fire worship of the pre¬ 
migration period. It will not be discussed in detail as it was a later 
development, and the issue goes beyond the scope of this work. 
Nevertheless, the name of the deity and its associated fire worship 
clearly show that the cult evolved from a common Slavic concept of a 
Fire God. 


PERUN 

There is also no doubt about the antiquity and Indo-European origins 
of the Slavic god Perun, the god of thunder and lightning. The name 
Perun derives from an Indo-European root "perk", "perg" or "per", 
meaning "to strike" and is directly associated with a striking 
thunderbolt. In Indian mythology there was a weather god, Parjanya, 
whose domain was thunder storms and monsoons. This deity, who also 
makes things grow, like Perun, is associated with cattle. And among 
the Balts, a thunder god Perkunas was one of the major deities. There 
is close conceptual relationship between the foregoing and thunder- 
associated gods of other Indo-European people, such as: Celtic 
Taranis; Greek Zeus and Germanic Thor/Donar. Independent 
developments separated Indo-European beliefs but a certain common 


99 



concept were preserved. For example, in Germanic mythology the 
goddess Fjorgynn is the mother of the thunder god Thor. Taking into 
consideration that in Germanic languages the original Indo-European 
"p" changed into "f', her name clearly appearsrelated to the stem 
"perg". In Hittite mythology the stone monster Ullikummi, who fights 
the weather god Tenub, is a son of the major god Kumarbi and a rock, 
a goddess called Peruna or Piruna. Unfortunately, Hittite mythology is 
so mixed up with Semitic and non-Indo-European beliefs that the 
similarity of name with Parjanya or Perun may be only a coincidence. 
On the other hand it may reflect a common Indo-European tradition 
shared with the Germanic people. 

Further support for the antiquity of the Perun-like deity in Eastern 
Europe comes from Mordvinian mythology. In pre-Christian times, 
Mordvins, an Ugro-Finian people of middle Volga basin, worshiped a 
thunder god called Purginepaz. This is a clear borrowing from the 
Indo-European mythology. However, it was not borrowed from the 
Slavs, as their Eastern branch did not penetrate the middle Volga in 
pre-Christian times. While at the same time the root "Purg" in 
Purginepaz suggests some relation to the Baltic "Perk" in Perkunas. 
The only plausible explanation is that Mordvins borrowed the concept 
and the god's name from the Fatyanovo culture of the second half of 
second millennium B.C.E. The Fatyanovo culture emerged in the 
Eastern Baltic area and spread along Volga and Oka as far as Ural 
mountains. Physical anthropology and strong cultural affilitiation of 
Fatyanovo complex with Kurgan and later Baltic cultures, indicates 
that they were Indo-European people. They were not Balts and 
probably not Balto-Slavic people either, but rather culturally and 
linguisticaly ancestral to both. Whatever the case, this shows that the 
concept of a Perun-like deity was common amongst the Old European 
population of Eastern Europe in the middle of the second millennium 
B.C.E. And this in turn clearly indicates continuity of this common 
Indo-European concept. 

The evidence for the concept of a thunder god among the Slavs is 
relativelly plentiful, with his worship first mentioned among the 
Southern Slavs. According to the mid 6th century Byzantine historian 
Procopius: 

"For they (Slavs) believe that one god, the maker of the lighting, is 


100 



alone lord of all things, and they sacrifice to him cattle and all other 
victims". 

There is no doubt that this account refers to Perun. The account does 
not imply that the Slavs were monotheists, but rather that Perun gained 
prominence among the Southern Slavs, whose religion evolved into 
henotheism. There is also evidence, that in the mythology of non- 
Slavic Albanians, there was a thunder god known as Perundi. Again, 
this is no doubt a borrowing from the Southern Slavs. 

As a consequence of the relatively early Christianisation of the 
Southern Slavs, there are no mo redirect accounts in relation to Perun 
from the Balkans. Nevertheless, as late as the first half of the twentieth 
century, in Bulgaria and Macedonia, peasants performed a certain 
ceremony meant to induce rain. A central figure in the rite was a 
young girl called Perperuna, a name clearly related to Perun. At the 
same time the association of Perperuna with rain, shows conceptual 
similarities with an Indian god Parjanya. There was a strong Slavic 
penetration of Albania, Greece and Romania, between the sixth and 
tenth centuries. Not surprisingly the folklore of northern Greece also 
kn ows Perperuna, Albanians know Pirpiruna and so the Romanians 
have their Perperona. Also, in a certain Bulgarian folk riddle the word 
"perunan" is a substitute for the Bulgarian word "grm" (grmotevitsa) 
for the thunder. Moreover, the name of Perun is also commonly found 
in Southern Slavic toponymy. There are places called: Perun, Perunac, 
Perunovac, Perunika, Perunijka Glava, Peruni Vrh, Perunja Ves, 
Peruna Dubrava, Perunuja, Perunice, Perudina and Perutovac. 

In addition, the Eastern Slavs, promised to uphold treaties with the 
Byzantines by invoking Perun in 907, 945 and 971. The Perun idol 
stood in Kiev, already by 945, when prince Igor swore to be true to the 
treaty at the shrine. Therefore, either Vladimir did not erect it or only 
enlargedthe shrine. 

But there are more accounts and other evidence showing that the cult 
was widespread among the ordinary people and in various forms, 
survived Christianization. It is worth noting certain passage in the 
"Russian Primary Chronicle". It stated that when the Perun idol and its 
sanctuary was destroyed, the people cried , while, according to the 
Chronicle of Novgorod, assault on the Perun shrine in Novgorod 


101 



caused serious uprising and bloody fighting in the city. Surely, both 
cases implied that it was a well established people's cult. 

The survival of worship well into the Christian era is also well 
attested. The following accounts strongly demonstrate the popularity 
of the cult among the ordinary people. In a Russian apocrypha of the 
12th century, known as (Hozhdyene Boguroditsi Po Mukam), idols of 
Perun and other gods were mentioned: 

"And they made gods out of the devils Troyan, Khors, Veles and 
Perun, and they worshiped these evil devils". 

A fourteenth century source known as (Slovo Grigoriya) - "The Word 
of Gregory", says that in remote areas pagans still prayed to Perun. . In 
the late eighteenth century Russia an ecclesiatic ruling had forbidden 
the singing of Christian prayers in front of an oak tree. And it has to be 
remembered that the oak tree was closely associated with the cult of 
Perun (oak tree worship will be discussed later). Also, an interesting 
custom was reported near Novgorod, as late as the early twentieth 
century. Here many travellers or boatsmen, sailing the Volkhov river, 
would cast a coin into the water, at the spot where Perun shrine was 
excavated in 1950's. 

Finally, after Christianization the cult merged and was transformed 
into veneration of Saint Elias. This happened most likely because of 
the Old Testament which credited Saint Elias with the ability to bring 
rain and thunderstorms. Thus through these means, an obscure 
Christian saint became a major celebrity in Eastern Slavic Orthodoxy. 
In the later Christian iconography of Saint Elias, he appears like Perun 
traversing the sky in the chariot of fire or riding on the horse. He has 
been also associated with thunders, arrows and oaks. In the early 
twentieth century, in the north-east of Russia, the following 
celebration was reported. On the 20th of July, Saint Elias day, a cow 
was slaughtered and the meatprepared by males. It was then 
distributed in the church and eaten by the whole congregation. This 
custom, evidently not being Christian, resembles the sacrificial killing 
of an animal and the communal consumption of the meat. 

The veneration of St. Elias with its mixture of pagan and Christian 
elements is one of the best arguments for the purely Slavic character of 
Perun and of the cult being widespread among all sections of Eastern 
Slavic society. Put simply, if Perun was only a deity of the elite and 


102 



was elevated to prominence at Kiev only for a few years, ordinary 
people would not have retained the cult for centuries. Neither would 
the Orthodox Church be forced to accept and tolerate certain evidently 
pagan beliefs and practices. 

The name of Perun also appears in Eastern Slavic toponymy. The most 
famous place is Peryn’ near Novgorod, where the remnants of open site 
shrine were unearthed by archaeologists , and there was a place on the 
Dneper known as "Perun's Shoal". 

Perun was also a deity of the Western Slavs, although the cult did not 
show up so prominently. In all Slavic languages, except Polish and 
Kashubian, the term for thunderbolt is "grom". The term is known to 
the Poles but more often they call it "piorun", a word clearly deriving 
from the name of Perun. In Silesia, even today, people say "Ty 
pieronie!", which in free-lance translation means "you bastard!". 
Theolder Poles' saying of dissatisfaction, "do pioruna!", could be 
translated as "by thunder!". It sounds like nonsense, but if we 
substitute the old meaning it would be "by Perun !". Very close to the 
familiar "by Jove!". Similar sayings have survived among Kashubians 
in the form of "na perona!" and "ty peronie!". It is worthwhile to note 
that in Kashubian thunder or lighting is called "parun" not "peron" , 
indicating that original saying refers to deity rather than to the thunder. 
In Moravian and Slovakian folklore there are spells using the term 
"parom" or "hrom" (original Slavic "g" replaced by "h" in Ukrainian, 
Czech and Slovak languages) interchangeably for thunder. 
Furthermore, the Slovaks would say "parom do teba" or "do paroma", 
meaning "may Perun strike you" and "by Perun!", respectively. 

Among the now almost extinct Polabian Slavs of eastern Germany, a 
deity called Porenutius (Porenut) was reported on Rugen island by a 
Danish chronicler of the turn of the 13 th century Saxo Gramaticus. 
Some scholars have interpreted the name as a corrupted form of Perun. 
However, this interpretation is not uniformlly accepted. Another deity 
called Proue was mentioned by Helmold as being worshipped in the 
12th century nearOldenburg in Wagrien. Its idol stood in an enclosed 
sanctuary situated in an oak grove. Sacrifices of cattle and sheep, and 
sometimes humans were performed for this deity, and once a week 
tribal court and the assembly was held there. Again it has been 
postulated that the name Proue is a corruption of Perun, taking into 
consideration that in another version of the chronicle, kn own as Stettin 
manuscript, it appears as "Prone". Whatever the case, Proue's 


103 



association with oaks and cattle sacrifice indicates close conceptual 
links with Perun-like deity. 

Still, however, the strongest evidence for antiquity of the Perun cult, 
its universality among all the Slavs, and all sections of the Slavic 
society, comes from the western extreme of Slavdom. In the region of 
Hanoverian Wendland, west of Elbe river in Germany, a dialect of 
Obodrite Slavs survived till the end of the eighteenth century. Those 
Slavs called Thursday a " Perundan" - literally a "day of Perun". 
Evidently, these people were aware that the name for Thursday in 
German "Donnerstag" means "day of Donar", a continental Germanic 
war god. Clearly, they had substituted their god Perun for Donar, as it 
was the Slavic deity thatmost closely resembled the Germanic war 
god. There is no other explanation, unless we accept that the 18th 
century Slavic peasants of backward Hanowerian Wendland spent cold 
nights of the northern European winter passionately reading the 
"Russian Primary Chronicle". 


VELES/VOLOS 

The origins and functions of the god Veles or Volos, are controversial. 
According to the Laurentian version of the "Russian Primary 
Chronicle", Veles was the god of cattle. And this view was accepted 
by the majority of scholars, without questioning. However, there is 
some indication that he was more than a mere god of the beasts. In 
Christian times, Veles was replaced by St. Blasius - a patron of 
domestic animals. It is likely that a monk who had written the 
"Russian Primary Chronicle" had projected St. Blasius' functions onto 
Veles, albeit ignorant of the role of the ancient god. 

From the scarce written records we know that at the official signing of 
the treaty with the Byzantines in 907 the whole Kievan army swore by 
Perun and Veles, and also, in the 971 treaty, the warriors swore by 
Perun and the "rest of Rus'" by Veles. This shows that Veles was an 
important god whose functions must have gone much beyond caring 
for cattle. The importance of cattle for the Eastern Slavs can not be 
denied, but their economy was agriculturally based. It wouldmake 
more sense if they swore by the "Mother Earth" rather than Veles. So, 
thi s suggests that Veles was also the guardian of the oath. In reference 
to the punishment for breaking the oath, the offenders would be killed 
by their own weapons" and "(da budem zoloti yako zoloto)" - " 


104 



become yellow as gold". Knowing the war function of Perun it seems 
that punishment by their own weapons must have referred to the wrath 
of Perun. For other punishment, at first the sentence appears to make 
no sense at all. However in Russian (zolotukha) means scrofula, a 
tuberculosis of bones and lymph glands - a serious and life threatening 
disease. So, this suggests that Veles was also able to inflict disease as a 
punishment. Furthermore, from the "Song of Igor's Campaign" comes 
a passage referring to the bard Boyan: "Vatic Boyan, grandson of 
Veles.." , suggesting a clairvoyant and prophetic nature of the god. 
After Christianisation of Kievan Rus', Veles was transformed into St. 
Blasius ( Russian - Vlasiy ), a patron of domestic animals. An 
interesting insight intothe cult comes from ethnographic data. Well 
into Christian times in Russia, during the cattle epidemic, peasants 
carring an icon of St. Blasius and performd certain ritual. A ritual that 
involved killing an ewe, ram, horse and cow, all being tied together. 
The rite is a mixture of many traditions and customs, and it is 
impossible to analyse it in details. Nevertheless, the killing of horses 
must be an ancient tradition associated with the cult of Veles. Among 
Indo-Europeans a very common sacrifice of horse was performed to 
only a few major deities. Hence, in this new perspective, Veles 
emerges as a deity of great importance, not only as a cattle god, but 
also as a guardian of the oath, punishing with diseases, and associated 
with clairvoyance and prophesies. A horse, and possibly some other 
animals were sacrificed to Veles. 

Furthermore, his importance could be fully realised if we look closer 
into the merger of the cult of Veles with St. Blasius. Most historians 
without much thought accept the simple notion that Veles was a cattle 
god transformed into the Christian saint of similar patronage. 

However, there is no doubt that Greek missionaries and Eastern Slavic 
clergy view the non-christian beliefs as evil and tried as hard 
aspossible to eradicate any traces of them. If they did not succeed and 
had to accept a merger of pagan and Christian beliefs, Veles must have 
been a god of great importance whose cult was deeply rooted in 
Eastern Slavic tradition. Only Perun, no doubt a major god of the 10th 
century Eastern Slavs, managed to achieve the same by "transforming" 
himself into Saint Elias. 

Some further insight into the functions of Veles comes from Baltic 
mythology. Both Slavs and Balts are linguistically and culturally 
closely related and share many similar religious concepts. In Baltic 


105 



mythology, there is a deity known as Velinas, Velnias or Vels, very 
well attested in folklore and toponymy, hence indicating the 
importance of this god in Baltic beliefs. In folklore Velinas appears to 
be a deity or demon of the dead and cattle. And in some Lithuanian 
legends Velnias is attributed with clairvoyance. Furthermore, 
according to Marija Gimbutas and Jaan Puhvel, the underworld 
demons knowns as Pikulas, Pikis or Piktis are alternative names of 
Velinas. There is also evidence that Balts sacrificed horse, bull and he- 
goat to Velnias. So, the similarity of names and functions strongly 
indicate that both, Veles and Velinas are conceptualy the same deity. 

Other historical accounts also mentioned the cult ofVeles on a number 
of occasions. A Veles statue stood in the suburb called Podol, an area 
apparently a craftsmen and tradesmen quarter. " A Tale of Vladimir’s 
Baptism" tells us that this idol was destroyed shortly after conversion. 
We probably will never know if Veles was included in Vladimir's 
pantheon or not. And if not, why his worship was not incorporated into 
Kievan cult. The cult of Veles is also known from other parts of the 
Eastern Slavdom. The destruction of a stone idol of Veles was 
recorded in Rostov district in the 11th century in "The Live of 
Abraam", a biography of an archimandrite of the Rostov monastery. In 
the twelfth century source, known as "Hozhdyene Boguroditsi Po 
Mukam", Veles is mentioned as still being worshipped in some rural 
areas. 

The name of this ancient god was also preserved in Eastern Slavic 
toponymy. Although many place names may relate to "volos" - hair in 
Russian, at least names for two places in Belorussian forests are 
associated with some supernatural forces called Volosin and Volosach, 
or the river Velesa in the Smolensk district of Russia seems to be 
derived from Veles. All this suggests that the cult of Veles was 
widespread among all sections of Eastern Slavic society. 

It appears that the borrowing from Baltic mythologycould be excluded 
and Veles-Velinas concept comes from common Balto-Slavic 
tradition. This is supported by evidence from other than the eastern 
branch of Slavic people. For example, there is a mount called Veles in 
Bosnia and a place of the same name, Veles, on the river Vardar in 
Bulgaria. The name of a Greek port on the Aegean coast of Thessaly, 
Volos, on the site of ancient Iolcos, may also be of Slavic origin , 
being a legacy of Slavic penetration into Greece between the 6th and 
9th century. In Serbia, one of the names for the constellation of Pleiads 


106 



is Vlasici, clearly meaning "children of Vlas". In Western Slavdom, 
among the Poles of the Tatra Mountains there is a folk tale about the 
dragon and the mount called Woloszyn (phonetically: Voloshin) , 
while, in Kashubian folk song appears a female spirit called Velevitka 
(the root: Vele, Velev). In a certain Bohemian folk tale, a bad wife 
turns into the goose that flies "beyond the sea, to the Veles". In an old 
Bohemian carol, condemned by Christian priest, a spirit called "vele" 
brings the people luck and happiness. The word "vele" is meaningless 
in Czech language, and seems to be an echo of an ancient pagan chant. 
And the sixteenth century Czech could say about weird ideas "kuveles 
ti to naseptal? (what devil put you up to it?)". And there is another 
Czech saying: "u velesa!", as an expression of annoyance. 

So, despite this indirect evidence, it seems to be cumulatively 
convincing that Veles was a major god of various functions and known 
to all branches of Slavdom. Hence his cult definitely pre-dates the 
migration period. 


STRIBOG 

Stribog of the Kievan pantheon appears to be a god of Wind or winds. 
The word's etymology is unclear, but the root "stri" may derive from 
the Slavic "stru" (to flow). Whereas the root "bog" means either means 
god or wealth. An alternative etymology was postulated by Russian 
scholars Ivanov and Toporov. According to them, the name Stribog 
derives from "Patribhagos", a Father God. However, this would make 
Stribog a major god of a first function, at least among the Eastern 
Slavs. But it seems to be unlikely considering his rather minor position 
in the Kievan pantheon and low prominence in Slavic mythology and 
folklore. 

There are parallel beliefs in various Indo-European mythologies. For 
instance in India there was a wind deity called Veyu, also known in 
ancient Persia as Vayu. Further, a similar deity named Wejopatis was 
worshipped by the Balts. Besides "The Russian Primary Chronicle" 
this deity wasmentioned in the "Tale Of Igor's Campaign",where the 
winds were called " Stribog's grandsons". In another passage in the 
tale, the daughter of Yaroslav of Galich - a 12th century prince - 
addressed this prayer to the wind: 


'Wind, Great Wind! 


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why, lord, blow perversly? 

Why carry those Hinish dartlets 
on your light winglets 
against my husband's warriors?". 

This seems to link the Wind with some military affairs, which finds a 
conceptual reflection in the military association of India Veyu and 
Iranian Vayu. Finally, the Stribog also appears in Eastern Slavic 
toponymy, such as: Stribozhe Lake or place called Stribozh. 

But any search for the Stribog cult beyond the borders of Eastern 
Slavdom does not produce much evidence. Nevertheless, the winds 
and associated demons are common in Slavic folklore and mythology - 
from Bulgaria to Poland. Among the Western Slavs, Poles called some 
winds "stryj", but this mayas well derive from the "stryj" - a term for 
father's brother. As for toponomy, there is Strzyboga in central Poland, 
and in the 13th c., a stream near Gdansk was called Striboc. The latter 
suggests that Stribog, like Perun and Veles, might have been a 
common Slavic deity. How developed this cult was in the pre¬ 
migration period is hard to determine. Definietely, it was not as 
prominent and elaborate as it was in the late tenth century Kiev. 

The remaining deities of the Kievan pantheon, such as: Khors, Simargl 
and Mokosh seem to be specifically Eastern Slavic deities and will be 
discussed later. 


Personification and anthropomorphisation 

The question of Slavic animism is probably sufficiently answered by 
the fore-going evidence demonstrating that these major common 
Slavic deities were to a various degree personified. However, the 
whole issue should, nonetheless, be explored a bit further. It should be 
pointed out that the personification and antropomorphisation of Slavic 
deities is also supported by their very names. All the deities discussed 
above had different names from their functions or their domains. For 
example, Svarog was a sky god, while the sky is called "nebo" in all 
Slavic languages. Dazhbog -"the giver of wealth" or "giving god" was 
a Sun god and the Sun is called "sonce" in Russian, and similary in all 
other Slavoniclanguages. In a common Slavic myth the Sun takes a 


108 



journey across the sky - from the east to the west - in his chariot, 
pulled by flame breathing white horses. This is a broad and general 
description of the myth as certain details differ from region to region. 
Nevertheless, the myth cleary indicates that Slavs worshiped the Sun 
god but not the Sun itself. The name of Svarozhits, a Fire deity, shows 
clear son-father relationship with Svarog. The "fire" in Russian is 
"ogon", in Polish "ogien", and similary in all other Slavonic tongues. It 
is interesting to note that the noun is cognate to Indian "agni" of the 
same meaning. Perun is the name of deity, not a thunderbolt, clearly 
related to perosonified Indian and Baltic deities of a similar function. 
The thunderbolt in all Slavic languages is called "grom". Veles 
etymology, although unclear, does not resemble any Slavic name for 
domestic animals. The same applies to Stribog, god of winds, as wind 
is called "veter" in Russian and similary by orher Slavs. 

Personification and anthropomorhisation of major Slavic deities, 
should not be a surprise. All the other Indo-European people had a 
personified and anthropomorphised deities from the earliest times, 
suggesting that the processbegan already among the Proto-Indo- 
Europeans, before divergence into separate linguistic branches. It 
would be extremely unusual if the Slavs would revert to animism after 
branching off from Balto-Slavic ethno-linguistic stratum. 

To what degree Slavic gods were personified and anthropomorphised 
is difficult to establish. Possibly it varied not only between various 
Slavic branches and tribes but also between social classes. It is worth 
noting that different conceptions of deity are still common today, even 
in a very uniform and organised religions. For example, for a 
Calabrian peasant and a Christian Democrat minister in Italy, a 
concept of Jesus Christ is definitely very different, although both are 
Roman Catholics. 

Beliefs and veneration of multitude of lesser gods, demigods, spirits, 
waters, wells etc., is an Indo-European phenomena and was common 
among the Celtic, Gennanic, Italic, Slavic and other people , forming a 
lower layer of their pre-Christian religion. Claims of Slavic animism 
could emerge as a result of customs and beliefs observed among the 
Eastern Slavs in Christian times, a situation which arouse out of 
theeradication of major cults where only the lower strata of beliefs 
survived in folklore, customs and some rites. While at the same time 
written records about Slavic religion were scarce. We can imagine a 
person equipped with a book containing Catholic doctrines but 


109 



ignorant of the ancient Aztec religion trying to reconstruct pre- 
Christian beliefs of Mexicans. We would have a similar situation 
where the upper stratum of Aztec religion was completely wiped out, 
while Catholicism of the rural Mexicans heavly intermingled with 
lower stratum of old beliefs. In such a case it would be very likely that 
conclusion would be: that Aztecs were animists. 

"Core" concepts and gods in Slavonic cosmology 

As the above evidence shows, the Slavic pre-christian religion was 
conceptualy rooted in the common Indo-European tradition. It evolved 
into its own relatively uniform set of beliefs in a specific conditions 
and circumstances. Where especially Northern Iranian influences 
played an important part. They had major deities and their 
personification is also well atested. That does not imply that some 
animistic elements did not exist, especially on the level of lesser 
spirits. 

The expression of particular cults might not have been common among 
all the Slavs, as the presented evidence often comes from much later 
times. Nevertheless, the "core" of pre-migration period Slavic religion 
was acknowledgement of a passive Sky god, known as Svarog. There 
are some indications that Veles was also a deity ranking among the 
major gods The Slavs of pre-migration period were clan based, small 
tribal societies and it seems logical to conclude that lack of political 
unity and any central authority led to the demise of Svarog and to 
some degree of the Veles. Svarog was the creator of two deities, Sun 
and Fire, that being Dazhbog and Svarozhits respectively. This echoes 
an Indo-European tradition conceptually. In Rig Veda Sun-Surja is 
created by Dyaus but also often confused or identified with Fire-Agni. 
From there, it is not hard to conclude that both deities descended from 
the Sky god. Perun, and his thunderbolt was most likely perceived as 
the "fire link" between celestial fire of Sun and earthly fire. This 
clearly reflects a common Indo-European concept of tri-partite 
division of the world. At the same time, the original deity of the 
second function, the god of war, faded into oblivion. However, taking 
into consideration some war like attributes of Perun, it appears that the 
original deity of weather and thunder was always to some extent 
associated with war functions. This is supported by evidence of the 
association of Indian Parjanyawith Indra and military functions. It 
might have happen that by the time the need for war deity arouse, 


110 



Perun who fit the it most closely was assigned a function. And this is 
reinforced by the already presented evidence from Procopius and from 
Hanoverian Wendland. 


Evolution of the eastern Slavic beliefs 

Now let us return to the end of the tenth century at Kiev, and 
Vladimir’s pantheon. As it was already shown, Perun and Dazhbog are 
major and common Slavic gods. The case of Stribog seem to be 
unclear and his cult might have not extended far from the Eastern 
Slavdom. The remaining deities are without doubt specifically Eastern 
Slavic. 


KHORS 

Khors seems to be unique to the Eastern Slavs, and appears to be 
another version of Dazhbog, that is Sun god. The etymology of his 
name is Iranian again, and it appears to be cognate to Iranian "khvar", 
and the modem Persian "Khorsid", both meaning the Sun. It is likely 
that some easternmost Slavic tribes, possibly those of Tmutorokan, 
were under much stronger Sarmatian influence, than the rest of the 
Eastern Slavs. They might then worship the Sun god under its Iranian 
name. Khors’ inclusion in a Kievan pantheon might have been an 
attempt to bring some tribal god into the mainstream and state 
organised cult. The cult is not Vladimir’s invention as the deity and its 
worship is mentionedin some other source. He appears in the "Tale of 
Igor's Campaign", in reference to Vseslav a Russian prince-wizard, of 
the turn of twelfth century, strongly suggesting his solar character. In 
the tweltfth century "Hozhdyene Boguroditsi Po Mukam", idol of 
Khors, alongside that of Troyan, Veles and Perun, are mentioned. The 
survival of Khors' memory into the Christian era suggests that the cult 
was widespread. And that under the name of Khors some sections of 
Eastern Slavic society worshiped the Sun. 


SIMARGL 

Simargl appears to be yet another direct borrowing from the Northern 
Iranians. In medieval Iranian and Caucasian mythology a bird-like 
demon with dog head is known as Simurgh, or Semnurv, and was the 


111 



creature of a "good omen". What the function of the Eastern Slavic 
Simargl was is unclear. In later Russian folklore s similarly looking 
creature is sometimes called Paskudj, and it appeared as a decorative 
motif between the ninth and thirteenth centuries. There is no evidence 
for this obscure cult anywhere else in Slavdom and it seems confined 
to its eastern branch. It is also hard to say how and why it was included 
in the Kievan pantheon. 


MOKOSH 

The interpretation of the Mokosh cult, the only female deity in 
Vladimir’s pantheon poses a great difficulty. Above all the etymology 
of her name is unclear. An Indo-European etymology is unconvincing 
and speculative. An Ugrofinian borrowing has been suggested as there 
was a deity or demon called Moksha. However, Ugro-Finian 
borrowing from the Slavs can not be excluded either. In Russian 
folklore Mokosh is associated with a variety of activities such as 
shearing and spinning. There are also some links with sexuality and 
fertility. It is possible that Mokosh derives from a Slavic root "mok" or 
"mokr" - wet. And it that case, she could have been somehow 
associated with "Mother Moist Earth". Taking into consideration that 
there is no evidence of personification of Mother Earth in Slavic 
mytholgy, the possiblity is that Mokosh was such an attempt on behalf 
of Vladimir. But it has to be acknowledged that the above argument is 
of highly speculative nature. 

Foreign influence on Slavic religion 

There is no doubt that long association of Slavs with Iranians left a 
visible mark on their beliefs. Their religion absorbed and incorporated 
numerous Iranian elements, nevertheless, Slavic beliefs had developed 
on their own. 

In this context the deities like Svarog, Svarozhits, Dazhbog, Veles and 
Stribog should be regarded as Slavic, rather thenlranian. Only Khors 
and Simargl are clear, and direct borrowings from Northern Iranian 
pantheon. Finally, the knowledge about Mokosh and her cult is so 
obscure that any claims in regard to her remain in the sphere of 
speculations. 


112 



It is interesting to note that by an overwhelming majority, the 
champions of Slavic animism and supporters of Norman origin of 
organised cult in Kiev never substanciate their claims, rarely going 
beyond simple statement without any evidence being presented. Such 
statements were made by Alexinsky and Fedotov. For Vlasto and 
Turville-Petre, Veles was a rustic Slavic deity while Perun a 
"Varangian god". Additionaly, Turville-Petre says that Perun is not 
well attested in Slavonic mythology , a claim already disproved by the 
above work. And in a recent publication, titled "Mother Russia", 
Joanna Hubbs claimed strong Scandinavian elements in Vladimir's 
pantheon, and that Thor was a prototype for Perun. Again, no evidence 
presented. As far as the author's research goes, only Nora Chadwick 
attempted to prove her point in the 1945 publication on Russian 
history. However, before addressing Chadwick's claims, let's analyse 
the Kievan cult in the context of possible Scandinavian influence. 

Firstly, we can look into the organisational aspect ofreligious life in 
Kiev. One of the most common shortfalls in addressing the Slavic 
religion is a failure to recognize that like any living religion, it was not 
a static phenomenon. Any religion serves the social function, 
appropriate for the society that practices it, and both evolve together. 
Hence in the clan based, small tribal society , there is no need for 
elaborate, highly organised and hierarchical cults. On the other hand in 
supra-tribal society, socio-political realities facilitate the emergence of 
more complex and hierarchical religion. During the migration period 
and shortly after - that is between the sixth and ninth centuries - the 
Slavic societies underwent transformation from a clan based to a large 
tribal form of socio-political organisation. In the case of the Eastern 
Slavs, this was partly a result of their expansion to the north and east, 
The process is facilitated when people are on the move, colonising 
new territories, encountering new challanging environments, 
circumstances and often hostile locals. This undoubtly created a need 
for better hierarchical organisation and more clearly defined 
leadership. Also, during thatperiod, Eastern Slavs came into the 
contact with, and often were subjugated by nomadic or semi-nomadic 
people such as Huns, Avars and Khazars. This also stimulated internal 
socio-political changes. Consequently, by the 9th century, Eastern 
Slavs were already organised into supra-tribal political units, such as: 
Polyane, Kriviche, Drevlyane and others. In this context, the religion 
of the Eastern Slavs had to serve new and different functions, and 
became more organised, elaborated, and hierarchical. 


113 



It has to be acknowledged that Scandinavian military organisation and 
prowess as well as their mercantile spirit played a significant part in 
the foundation of Kievan Rus'. Nevertheless, the Scandinavan impact 
on the Eastern Slavs is frequently exaggerated. It is often overlooked 
that the Scandinavians did not have much to offer in political and 
religious spheres. Above all, Sweden did not exist as such by then, and 
on its territory there were a number of independent supra-tribal 
political units. And those principalities were more or less on a par with 
the large, regional, tribal political entities of the Eastern Slavdom. In 
the religious sphere, Scandinavians were also on a similarlevel. Their 
mythology was often as inconsistent as in the case of the Slavs. It is 
worthwhile to note, that a formal priesthood did not exist in 
Scandinavia until the tenth-eleventh century. Furthermore, 
Scandinavians did not have temples and worshipped their gods at open 
shrines. It is commonly accepted that later temples and priesthood 
(from subsequent centuries) came into being as a result of unification 
trends and to some extent as a response to the ideological challenge of 
Christianity. So, there is no reason to believe that the evolution of 
Eastern Slavic religion was the result of any direct Scandinavian 
influence. 

Second, we can look into the cult of Perun and how it acquired its war 
god characteristics and developed henotheistic tendencies. It is hard to 
say when the atmospheric functions of this deity were surpassed by the 
military functions. Nevertheless, it is likely that it took place just 
before the Slavic migration began. This is supported by the fore-going 
evidence from Hanoverian Wendland, where Perun was conceptually 
perceived as a similar deity to the Germanic Thor/Donar, and where 
later contacts with Eastern Slavdom could be safely excluded. It seems 
natural that the warlike deities would become of greater importance in 
the societies engaged in frequent warfare. And this is the case of the 
Eastern Slavs during their northern and eastern expansion of the 
migration period, as well as a result of later constant conflicts with the 
people of the steppes. A similar development took place among the 
Southern Slavs, whoconquered and colonised the Balkans. This is 
confirmed by the previously cited Procopius account that their 
dominant deity was a thunder god - no doubt Perun himself. On the 
other hand, it appears that among the Polish tribes, the cult of Perun 
never became dominant. Simply because they were surrounded by 
fellow Slavs and, as a consequence, sheltered from other hostile 
people. This of course does not imply that inter-tribal warfare among 


114 



the Slavs did not exist. It did exist, but such inter-tribal conflicts were 
of a different nature, magnitude and consequences. A similar 
development took place among the people of Scandinavia, where the 
cult of Thor gained prominence from the outset of the Viking era. , 
that is, when warfare became of greater importance to their society. 

Third, we explore the close association of the Perun cult and the oak 
tree. There is evidence that sacred and consecrated oaks were situated 
in some form of enclosure, usually, surrounded by a ditch, a stone ring 
or a fence. Here sacrifices and offerings were made to Perun. The most 
common sacrificial animal was a cock, but sometimes on special 
occasions a bull, bear or he-goat. The sacrificial animals were killed 
and consumed at the communal eating event. It was believed that such 
a feast would strengthen the bonds between the group’s members. This 
association clearly derives from common Indo-European heritage, 
shared by most of theEuropean people. The oak was a holy tree not 
only of Germanic Thor/Donar but also of Italic Jupiter, Baltic 
Perkunas and Celtic Taranis. Also, Greek Zeus was associated with 
this tree. This universal association of thunder gods with an oak could 
be explained in the following terms. As oaks are quite tall and large 
trees, they must have been struck by lightning more often than any 
other trees. So, this coincidence must have been seen by ancient Indo- 
Europeans as caused by divine power. There is also a linguistic 
association of thunder gods with an oak tree. The Indo-European root 
"perg" - to strike, found in Perun and Perkunas, also appears in oak 
related terms. In Latin an oak is "quercus", where Indo-European "p" 
was replaced by Latin "q" . In Celtic "hercos" means "oak forest", 
where "h" replaced "p". While in Gothic, "fairguni", means "hill 
covered with oaks", with a typical Germanic change of Indo-European 
"p" into Germanic "f\ 

Fourth, in popular Slavic mythology Perun's magic weapon was a bow 
and arrow. The Slavs believed that arrow-like stones were Perun's 
thunderbolts. They were called ( stryela ) - arrow, arrow-bolt, and had 
certain magic properties when found. Evidence for this belief 
isoverwhehning, and comes from the Ukraine, Slovenia, Serbia and 
Poland. This again echoes the ancient Indo-European tradition as 
arrows were associated with the Indian god Parjanya. At the same 
time, the most recognisable attribute of Baltic Perkunas was an axe 
same like the Germanic Thor/Donar who wielded and threw an axe or 
stone hammer. 


115 



Fifth, we can explore a shrine devoted to Vladimir’s pantheon. 
Although we have no description of the Kievan site, presumably a 
similar shrine was excavated near Novgorod. It is known from 
historical records that Novgorod had a shrine for Perun and the site 
excavated nearby at Peryn’ - must be the one. It was an open, circular 
site 33 metres in diameter enclosed by a ditch, in which a number of 
sacred fires were burning. A number of large post holes and a centrally 
located fragments of rectangular stone were interpreted as being bases 
for the idols. A similar, but smaller site was excavated near Zhitomir 
on the river Khnylopiata in Ukraine which dated from the second half 
of the ninth century. Numerous sites, similar to the fore-going, were 
unearthed all over Slavdom. Just to list a few, therewere two 
enclosures at Trzebiatow and one at Smordzin dated to the ninth and 
tenth century. Stone encircled sites were located on mount Chermno, 
mount Gora Grodowa, Paleni hill, near Wapiennica in Silesia and 
mount Chwirty Krzyzh in Kielce district (all in Poland - the ninth - 
tenth century). Further, in Bohemia circular, ditched sites were 
unearthed at Old Kounim and at Pohansko, both from the ninth 
century. Generally speaking, the early Slavs did not build temples, but 
neither did the Scandinavians before the tenth-eleventh century. As a 
matter of fact the early ancient Indians, Iranians, Celts and Romans, 
also worshipped their deities in the open. For many Indo-European 
people the sacred places, were often: the trees or groves; springs and 
lake; or open, fenced or stone encircled enclosures. Hence, there are no 
reasons to believe that open, circular shrines of Eastern Slavdom bear 
any Scandinavian influence. The wooden or sometimes stone idols, 
often with a moustache are also common finds across Slavdom, dating 
from the sixth to eleventh centuries. Here again there is no evidence 
for Norse influence. 

Now returning to Nora Chadwick. A major problem with her 
interpretation is her initial assumption that Scandinavianpre-christian 
religion was somehow superior to that of the Baltic and Slavic peoples, 
an issue already briefly addressed. In her interpretation of the 971 
treaty with the Byzantines, she postulate that a parallel exists with an 
Icelandic oath taken on a golden ring where Freyr, Njordr and an 
unspecified "almighty god" were invoked. She claimed that the name 
of Veles derives from the Scandinavian Volsi: a horse penis and a 
symbol of fertility from the "Saga Of King Olaf Tryggvason". Then by 
associating Volsi with the fertility attributes of the god Freyr, she 
equated Veles with Freyr. In the next step of her reasoning, she 


116 



introduced Thor as "almighty god" and equated him with Perun. This 
was followed then by the interpretation of a passage in the Russo- 
Byzantine treaty, "slain by their own weapon", as a reference to 
Odin/Wodan. Finally, she arriving at the conclusion that the 971 treaty 
was really sworn on Odin, Thor and Freyr. However, this 
interpretation poses serious problems. The passage "(da budem zoloti 
yako zoloto) - become yellow as a gold", already explained in terms of 
sickness as a punishment for breaking the oath, has no conceptual link 
with the Icelandic golden ring. A brief account of laying some gold 
under the Perun idol by prince Igor in 945, as a part of the oath is hard 
to interpret and explain. Unfortunately, 

"The Russian Primary Chronicle" does not specify whether the"gold" 
of Igor's was a personal jewellery, some booty or some other artefacts. 
Consequently, it does not offer any clues which could assist in the 
interpretation of its symbolism and it could be freely interpreted or 
linked with most of the religions. Using Chadwick's logic we may 
come to the conclusion that the Kievan cult was influenced by Roman 
Catholicism. After all, Catholics are known to make golden votive 
offerings to their Saints. 

Although, the authenticity and antiquity of the "horse penis - Volsi" 
story has been questioned , its links with god Freyr seem plausible. 
Nevertheless, this interpretation fails to explain how Freyr under the 
name Velinas, became a major deity of the Baltic people. And how, 
under the Slavic name Veles, it became known among the Western and 
Southern Slavs (see earlier paragraph on Volos). In a subsequent step 
in her study, Chadwick conveniently omitted Njordr and more or less 
out of the blue introduced Odin and Thor - mentioned by name neither 
in Icelandic oath or Russo-Byzantinian treaty. Hence, taking into 
consideration that the entire interpretation is based on a lengthy 
sequence of highly speculative arguments it should rather be 
disregarded. 

Also, Nora Chadwick claimed that the name of the Kievan deity Khors 
derives from the Anglo-Saxon "hors" and Old Norse "hross" - both 
meaning: horse - and that Khors did not appear in other sources. Then 
by association of horse with horse penis she also linked Khors with 
both Volsi and Volos. Evidently, she was unaware that this god was 
mentioned together with Veles and other deities in " - Hozhdyene 
Boguroditsi Po Mukam", and once more in "Tale of Igors Campaign". 
But above all, taking into consideration strong and undisputable 


117 



Northern Iranian influence on the Slavic religion and languages, the 
Iranian etymology of Khors and his solar association appear to be 
more plausible. 

All together Nora Chadwick's theories on the origins of later pagan 
Eastern Slavic religion should rather be addressed in a freudian rather 
than historical context. 

Nevertheless, taking into consideration that the Varangians and Slavs 
co-existed for centuries in the land of Rus', we could suspect that some 
diffusion of religious elements took place. For example, a number of 
ship burials were reported in Russia. This is obviously a Scandinavian 
custom with similar burials found all over Scandinavia, in Iceland, 
Brittany and England. It is hard to say who was buried there, but it is 
likely that at least in some cases the Slavic elite might have adopted 
these Scandinavian burial custom. 

It is possible that prince Igor's act of laying down his weapons under 
Perun's idol, reflected a Scandinavian ritual. All Germanic people 
revered their swords resulting inmany of them endowed with magical 
and supernatural powers. On the other hand, other people like 
Scythians worshipped a sword as a war god symbol and are known to 
perform the sacrifice of a horse and cattle to it. As a matter of fact 
"celebration" of weapons could be viewed as any warrior ritual, not 
exclusively Germanic. 

On the contrary, there is some evidence of slavization of Varangian 
beliefs in Kievan Rus'. For example, according to A1 Masudi, wives of 
deceased prominent Slavs were burned alive with their husbands. 

There is no reason to doubt the account as similar customs were 
practiced by Indians and Sarmatians. However, an account by another 
Arab trader of the early tenth century, referring to the Varangian 
Russes, tells as that they buried alive the wives of important man when 
he dies. There is no evidence for that practice among any other 
Germanic people and it is reasonable to assume that it was adopted by 
Varangians from the Eastern Slavs. It is also worth noting that, 
according to "The Russian Primary Chronicle" treaties with the 
Byzantines, in 907, 945 and 971 were sworn by the Russes on Perun. 
Regardless of conceptual similarities between the Germanic Thor and 
the Slavic Perun, the very fact that they swore by a Slavic rather then 
Scandinavian deity suggests a high degree of slavization of Varangian 
beliefs. 


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Conclusion 


In summary, it has to be acknowledged that the reconstruction of the 
"core" Slavic beliefs ( presented above ) may be a subject of criticism, 
and certain details subject to different interpretations. Nevertheless, it 
could be said that the pre-migration religion of Slavs was clearly and 
deeply rooted in the common Indo-European tradition. In this period 
the Slavic religion shows certain conceptual uniformity but was not a 
single set of beliefs. It displayed very strong and an indisputable 
Northern Iranian influence, in both religious concepts and origins of 
many deities. 

As fore-going work shows, the alledged animism of pre-Christian 
Slavic beliefs appeared to be a hard dying legacy of biases of the two 
German historians of 30's and early 40's, Winecke and Franz; and also 
of the general lack of a serious research on the subject. 

Moreover, Vladimir’s pantheon was not a foreign, Scandinavian elite 
cult. It is reasonable to assume that certain Norman elements were 
incorporated into the Kievan cult but their impact is hardly traceable. 

In principle, Vladimir’s pantheon was a response to internal socio¬ 
political changes and the external needs of the emerging Eastern Slavic 
state. It was a henotheistic and dynastic cult focussing onthe deity 
which best served state building purposes - Perun. It was a product of 
the long evolution of the Eastern Slavic religion which in post¬ 
migration times diverged from a relative conceptual unity of the 
common Slavic beliefs. Eastern Slavic beliefs evolved in specific 
geographic, ethnic and political conditions, characteristic for Eastern 
Europe. Its development was the response to those circumstances. 
Serving new needs and purposes, the Kievan cult must have 
incorporated new attributes and acquired a new dimension. 
Nevertheless, those new elements were drawn mainly from Slavic and 
Northern Iranian heritage, rather than from the Scandinavian one. 


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Pagan ages in Poland 
By Margi B. 

Polish Supernatural Spirits 

Bannik - The Bathhouse Spirit. Bathhouses resembled saunas that 
had an inner steaming room and an outer changing room. A place 
where women gave birth and practiced divinations, the bathhouse was 
strongly endowed with vital forces. The third firing (or fourth, 
depending on tradition) was the offering to the Bannik, and no 
Christian images were allowed as it might offend the occupants. 


Boginki - "Little Goddess" Traditionally, covens of old women 
would perform sacrifices and rituals for the nymphs of the riverbanks. 
Boginki were said to steal babies from their human parents that were 
replaced with Odmience - the Changed Ones. These spirits are said to 
be the original deities of life and predate the sky gods. They also 
appear to be forerunners of the Rusalki. 


Djabelek - An imp who plays practical jokes; in modern terminology 
now means "demon or "devil." As always, children in families who 
have too much energy and are always in mischief are called "djablek" 
in a loving, but amused way. 


Dogoda - Gentle Spirit of the West Wind, associated with love. 


Dola - The protective spirits which embody human fate. They can 
appear in the guises of a God, a cat, a man, a mouse, or a woman. 

They have their own preferences and provinces; and they would hound 
you if you made choices that were not planned by Fate. 


Domowije - The Grandfather house spirit; resembles a male head of 
a family - living or dead. The favorite places for these spirits to live is 
the threshold under the door or under the stove. He is responsible for 


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maintaining peace and order in the household. Peasants made sure to 
feed him nightly, in return for being well taken care of and protected. 
When a new house is constructed, the owner would attract one of these 
spirits by placing a piece of bread down before the stove was put in. 
Special care was taken to make sure to only obtain pets and farm 
animals he liked, but the domowije would torment the ones he didn't 
care for. Salted bread wrapped in a white cloth appeases this spirit. 
Putting clean white linen in his room was an invitation to eat a meal 
with the family. Hanging old shoes in the yard makes him happy as 
well. The Domowije's behavior could foretell or forewarn about the 
future. He will pull hair to warn a woman of danger from an abusive 
man. He would moan and howl to warn of coming trouble. If he shows 
himself, it forewarns of death, if weeping it is said to be a death in the 
family. If he is laughing there are good times to be expected. If he 
strums a comb there is a wedding in the future. 


Kikimora - A female house spirit that is sometimes said to be 
married to the Domowije. She usually lives behind the stove or in the 
cellar. She will look after the chickens and the housework if the home 
is well kept. If not, she will tickle, whistle, and whine at the children at 
night. She comes out at night to spin; if she appears spinning to 
someone it is said that person will die. To appease an angry Kikimora 
it is said one should wash all the pots and pans in a fern tea. She is said 
to look like an average woman with her hair down (Slavic women kept 
their heads covered). 


Lakanica - A meadow spirit; Polish field spirit. 


Leszi - Male woodlands elves who protect wild animals and have a 
close bond with the wolf. He is also seen in the company of bears. He 
is said to shape-shift to any size, animal or plant. He is the Forest Lord 
and carries a club to express his rulership in the wood. If one could be 
friends with the Leszi, he would teach them the secrets of magic. 


Mamuna - a highlander Polish spirit said to lead one down the wrong 
path, literally and figuratively. 


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Mamony - The Polish Wild Woman spirit of the forest. She 
resembles such nature goddesses as Artemis. 


Mora - Souls of living people that leave the body during the night, 
and are seen as wisps of straw or hair or as moths. 


Naw - Demons from the souls of persons that had met a tragic death 
or premature death. 


Neuri - Shape-shifters of uncertain origins. They are said to be 
sorcerers that can take the shape of a wolf for one week once a year. 


Nocnitsa - "Night Hag," nightmare Spirit that also goes by the names 
Krisky and Plaksy. She is known in Bulgaria as Gorska Makua. 


Odmience - Changlings left behind by the Boginki. 


Polewiki - A field spirit that appears as a deformed dwarf with 
different colored eyes and grass for hair. He appears either at noon or 
sunset and wears either all black or all white. He will lead wandering 
people in a field astray; give them diseases or ride them over with his 
horse if he finds them asleep. If a person falls asleep on the job after 
drinking, the Polewiki might murder them. Appeasing the Polewiki 
requires two eggs and a rooster, a toad and crow placed in a ditch 
when no one is looking. Poland was named after the word Pole, which 
means field. 


Polundica - The whirlwind named "Lady Midday," who makes 
herself more evident in the middle of hot summer days. She takes the 
form of whirling dust clouds and carries a scythe. She will stop people 
in the field to ask them difficult questions or engage them in 
conversation. Fi anyone fails to answer a question or tries to change 
the subject, she will cut off their head or strike them with illness. She 


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may appear as an old hag or beautiful woman, or a 12 year old girl; 
and she was useful in scaring children away from valuable crops. She 
is only seen on the hottest part of the day and is a personification of a 
sun-stroke. 


Psotnik - Elves, "mischief makers." 


Rarog - A hawk, falcon, or fiery dwarf who turns himself into a 
whirlwind. The word for whirlwind seems to be a late bastardization of 
the name Swarog. In Lusitania to the people of Urals it was customary 
to throw a knife into a whirlwind to kill the demon residing in it. 
Bulgarians, Russians, and Pommeranians still cast themselves face 
down before a whirlwind to ward off misfortune and illness. Russians 
would shout "a belt around your neck!" in order to strangle the demon. 


Rusalje - They are the Spirits that live in the waters from Fall to 
Spring; in some traditions they reside in the waters from Summer to 
Fall. In other tales, they become the Sky Women when they return 
from the waters. They are called Queen of Fairies and it is said only 
witches dared to swim with the Rusalje. The belief that the thunder 
and lightening of spring time was brought by the Sky Women mating 
with the thunder gods; so Spring festivals included celebrating the 
return of the Rusalje from the waters by placing wreaths on the waters, 
circle dances, and fire festivals. They brought moisture to field and 
forest. 

Sky Women - The warm weather incarnations of the Rusalka. Slavic 
women would go out in the first snow fall and make snow women to 
honor them, as it is believed to be brought by the Sky Women. 


Smierna - Polish Spirit of Death. 


Spor - These spirits made the corn grow, and the cattle mature. The 
Spirit of fertility; and it is said every family invoked them. 


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strzyga - Vampires in Slavic culture that had two hearts and two 
souls, as well as two sets of teeth, but one set growing in normally 
would pinpoint a Strzyga. When they die, only one soul gets passed 
on, and the other soul causes the deceased Strzyga to come alive and 
prey upon other living beings. Burying the body in a separate place 
than the removed head is said to prevent Strzyga from rising back from 
the dead; but also burying the body face down with a sickle around it's 
head is said to work as well. 


Sudice (The Fates) - Spirits of judgement that meted out fortune, 
destiny, judgement and in some cases, fatality. 


Tloka - The Spirit of neighborly compassion which compels you to 
put aside disagreements to come to the aid of a community member in 
financial trouble or help a neighbor repair a damaged home. 


Topieke - Water spirits of human souls that died drowning, residing 
in the element of their own demise. 


Treasurer/Karzelek - They live in mines and underground 
workings and are the guardians of gems, crystals, and precious metals. 
They will protect miners from danger, and lead them back when they 
are lost. They will also lead them to veins of ore. To people who are 
evil or insult them they are deadly; pushing them into dark chasms or 
send tunnels crashing down upon them. Hurling rocks, whistling or 
covering one's head are actions that are offensive to the Treasurer; who 
will warn the offender with handfuls of pelted soil in their direction 
before taking serious action. The word for treasurers is still a mystery, 
the Polish name being the closest resemblance. 


Wila - Reputed in Poland and Lithuania to be the shape-shifting souls 
of the dead that were believed to visit the homes of their families. 
Peasants would lay flowers in the entrances to caves where they 
believed the Wila resided. Offerings for the Wila consist of ribbons, 
round cakes, vegetables, fresh fruit or other flowers left at sacred trees, 
fairy caves and wells. They are the female spirits that lived in the 


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mountains, woods, and clouds that could shape-shift into horses, 
falcons, or swans also. 


Wodjanoj - Male water spirits that are master shape-shifters that are 
said to live in underwater palaces made from the treasures of sunken 
ships. They are reported to marry the Rusalki; and are asked to help by 
fishermen by placing a pinch of tobacco in the water and say "Here's 
your tobacco, Lord Wodjanoj, now give me a fish." A Wodjanoj can 
be appeased by giving him your first fish or pouring butter into the 
water. Millers, beekeepers, and fisherman were protected by the 
Wodjanoj. 


Zors - Male spirits of Daytime. 


Polish Folk Magic 

Circles - Most Slavic people worshipped in natural circles and 
groves; and it plays a large part in all kinds of magic. In all traditions, 
circles can be made of with lighted candles, drawing circles in the soil, 
or with natural objects and tools. They are used to surround evil or 
protect oneself from it. (see also - Matka Ziema) 


Crossroads - As in other European traditions, the crossroads are a 
sacred and magical place where both divination and invocations were 
uttered. Talismans and amulets were hung or buried there, as well as 
other spell work was conducted. The crossroads were a place where all 
places and directions meet; and all time faded away into the present 
moment. 


Czarwonica - The Polish word for witch, entrantress or spellbinder. 


Divination - Forms of divination that were practiced in Poland 
included the following: Candle wax dripped in a glass of water was 
held up to the light for interpretation; herbs thrown on the fire 
produced smoke that could be interpreted by the shape of patterns it 


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made; finding pysanky patterns in the natural world would yield a 
prediction of fortune. 


Fire Flowers - To find this powerful plant, the seeker had to go into 
the forest before midnight on the Eve of Kupala. The flower itself 
would climb up the stalk of the fern and bloom into brightness so 
bright no one would look at it, precisely at midnight. A circle must be 
drawn around it in order to harvest it, and the seeker had to deal with 
demons trying to trick him/her into distracting them from their goal. It 
was said that if you answer the voices, or falter during the task or it 
would sacrifice their own lives. Anyone finding this flower gained the 
ability to read minds, finding treasure, and repel all evils. 


Herbs -1 have constructed a short list of non-pysanky related plants 
that are used in Polish folk customs. Disclaimer -1 do not suggest 
anyone ingest or otherwise use these herbs in any of the methods 
shown here without the approval of a qualified physician. 


Belladonna - This plant is found chiefly in the Carpathian region of 
Poland, and was listed as an ingredient in old flying ointment recipes. 
This led to the belief that it has always been associated with witches 
and evil. This plant is a hallucinogenic and very deadly. 


Bellflower - Children suffering from consumption were bathed in 
this herb; and the results of skin darkening was used to divine whether 
they lived or would die. If the skin darkened, they would survive. If 
the skin stayed pale and sickly, the child would die. 


Birch - A harbinger of spring, and it is said to bring good fortune and 
protect against witches and the evil eye. 


Burnette Saxifrage - An herb that in folklore is said to protect you 
from death by eating or drinking it. 


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Juniper - On the Holy Day of Dyngusy, branches were used to 
playfully whip blessings onto each other. 


Lady's Mantle - This herb would disperse storm clouds when 
thrown into a fire or hung into a window. 


Linden Tree - The sacred tree that protected against evil spirits and 
lightening, commonly planted in front of houses to keep evil from 
entering. It was also a place to leave offerings and to hold folk rituals. 
The Blessed Mother is said to hiding in the tree, and since lightening 
didn't strike it - it also became a symbol of luck. It is also a symbol of 
family, faith, and the good life. 


Meliot - Used as incense for protection to those who had been given 
the evil eye. May wine was flavored with this herb. 


Mint - Thought of as a Universal healing herb, the most common use 
was for aid of digestion. 


White Bryony - This herb was fenced in when it was found on 
property to protect it; as the leaves resemble a child and digging it up 
would destroy their own happiness. It is said that the stems and leaves 
from this plant were used in spells and incantations. 


Knots - Knots performed powerful magic; and were used to bind the 
intent into the working. Knots in willows were considered powerful 
catalysts in love magic. 


Ladanki - Medicine and charm bags that were worn on the belt or 
around the neck. Ladanki contained written spells, herbs, stones, 
amulets and talismans. 


Lechebnik - A Russian word for charm books and no czarwonica 
would be worth his/her salt without one. This word carries into Polish 


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as well, the root word from which is Lecznie - meaning to heal or 
cures. 

The Magic Belt of Poland - The original belt was 2.28m (89" 
long) parchment scroll with the magic symbols inscribed on the 
outside and the prayers for them written on the inside of the Belt. The 
Knights of Poland to protect them from all possible danger used it. The 
original source of protective magic probably dates to before 1600 AD 
in Christian magic, however the symbols might be from pagan 
antiquity. The Magic Belt was originally exhibited by the Archeology 
Department of the Warsaw University in 1922, but disappeared at the 
end of WWII. Invoking the talismans, one would take the belt off and 
stand in a circle with their hair loose. Belts held knives, ladanki and 
were wore by both women and men. It is possible in these everyday 
belts and magic belts were embossed with the symbols and possibly 
come from the origin of the Key of Solomon. For the Magic Belt 
talismans see Sources at the bottom of the page. 


Matka Ziema - The Polish call her this name; and she is called 
Moist Mother Earth and the Mother of Plants. Poetic phrase describes 
her as "she who raises flowers." The Earth was the Supreme Being; 
and is the Universal Life force and the fabric of becoming. Oaths were 
made binding by touching the Earth. Sins were confessed to the Earth 
before death. She was worshipped in her natural form; and was not 
given a human personage or likeness. A traditional invocation to 
Matka Ziema; with a jar of hemp oil: 

East - "Mother Earth, subdue every evil and unclean being so that he 
may not cast a spell on us nor do us any harm." 

West - "Mother Earth, engulf the unclean power in thy boiling pits, 
and in thy burning fires." 

South - "Mother Earth, calm the winds coming from the South and 
all bad weather. Calm the moving sands and whirlwinds." 

North - "Mother Earth, calm the North winds and clouds, subdue the 
snowstorms and the cold." The jar, which held the oil, is buried after 
each invocation and offering is made at each Quarter. (Slavonic 
mythology 1977:287) 


128 



In Russia there was a quite terrifying ritual dedicated to Matka Ziema, 
and happened on the eve of the 1st World War to preserve their village 
against a plague of cholera. At midnight the older women circled the 
village, summoning the other women without the knowledge of the 
men. They would choose nine maidens and three widows who would 
be led out of the village. They would all undress down to their shifts. 
The maidens let down their hair, and the widows covered their heads 
with white shawls. They seized ploughs, the maidens armed 
themselves with scythes, and others would grab various objects of 
terrifying appearance including the skulls of animals. The procession 
would then march around the village, howling and shreiking, while 
they ploughed a furrow to permit the powerful spirits of the Earth to 
emerge, and to annihilate the germs of evil. Any man who had the bad 
luck to meet the procession was felled without mercy. (Slavonic 
Mythology 1977:287) 

Pysanky - Decorated eggs. They themselves symbolize Spring, birth, 
rebirth and fertility. They represent the origin of life, the Universe, and 
the equality of polar powers. Traditionally, pysanky eggs were 
decorated by women and girls; who are taught the age-old rituals 
passed down from the Babci or Grandmother. The traditional working 
is done after dark in a quiet place. This ensures that concentration, 
meditation, and ritual consciousness can be performed with 
continuance. The artist should make an effort to be calm and anger 
free during the previous day. A white tablecloth covers the workspace, 
and your candle is set in the middle of the table. Bread and salt are 
placed behind the candle, flowers and incense to the right and a cup of 
water to the left. The water in which boiled-style eggs were prepared is 
meaningful, used to wash in, bless with and used to anoint beehives to 
bring plenty of sweet tasting honey. It was also poured along property 
lines to protect against the ravages of weather, also against thunder and 
lightening. It is traditional that the most magical, ancient pysanky had 
four or five colors used with them. 


Spoiling - A term used to mean a curse being on someone, or 
working magic against someone. One way of doing this is measuring 
out the exact length of someone's footprint with a string, and then 


129 



burning the string. A footprint in mud or snow was dug up and buried 
under the victim's house to cause grief. Spoiling may be averted by 
lighting a candle if you not face to face with the culprit, or spitting on 
the ground, and by throwing dirt in the direction of the culprit walking 
away. 


Szeptem - Polish for "in a whisper," the way of sending a spell on 
the winds. Used to enchant objects. 


Thresholds - A place that was marked a crossover between the 
worlds as well as home space and the outside world. It is a place to 
hide written spells or magical objects. It wasn't considered acceptable 
to accept anything over the threshold, or to return over it once you 
have crossed it to start a journey. It was ill advised to cross it with the 
left foot first, as you would be cross into the Otherworld. 


Zagavory - Verbal spells that were used the most effectively by folk 
magicians in their methods of spell work. They also used the whispers 
that were said to enchant objects. Verbal spells were burned or sent to 
the winds. 


Zawlanie - The "word of power," a sound or word that focuses a 
person's energies into the workings. It is also a trigger to send one into 
the dream world. 


Znak - A talisman and/or amulet, or a charm. 


Znakhari - Practitioners of folk magic who were healers, herbalists, 
midwives, and were known as wise women and cunning men. 
Znakharka is the feminine form, and znakhar is the masculine. The 
znakhari would detect poison, and interpret dreams to detect witchcraft 
and counteract the evil eye and baneful spells. They did not conjure 
spirits, but use the whispers, which are more important than the 
amulets or talismans used in the spellwork. 


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Polish Pagan Pantheon 


Bailobog - The white God of the waxing year; Guardian of the 
summer. Bailobog would defeat his brother in battle every Koliada to 
take his rightful place as the ruler of the waxing year. At Kupalo, 
Czarnobog would defeat Bailobog in battle to assume his position of 
ruler of the waning half of the year. Bailobog is said only to appear by 
day to assist travelers to find their way out of dark forests or reapers in 
the fields. 


Czarnobog - The black god of the waning year. This particular is 
one source of inspiration for the music of Moussorsky's "Night on 
Bald Mountain" as he is portrayed as the Black God of evil, woe, and 
grief. He is also known as the God of Chaos and Night; and as the 
black God of the Dead. 


Dazbog - The Sun God who lives in the Palace of the East; the land 
of eternal summer and plenty. Each morning he emerged from the 
arms of the Zorya to ride his chariot drawn by three horses: one is 
gold, one is silver, and one is diamond. In Russian lore he is said to 
begin the day as an infant and died an old man at the end of the 
daylight. 


Dziewona - The Slavic Diana, whose name is said to appear very 
late in Slavic history. However, all names that are derivative of Slavic 
language translate to "The Maiden." She equates to the goddess Diana 
in name and function. She is more widespread in Slavic countries, 
where in other cultures she is a minor deity. She is the Polish virginal 
Goddess who is the huntress of the forest, and is associated with the 
Moon, spring, agriculture and weather. 


Dzydzilelya - Polish Goddess of love and marriage and of sexuality 
and fertility. She is similar to Venus, Aphrodite, and other goddesses 
of this nature. 


131 



Jarilo - God of spring fertility, represented as a young man dressed in 
white with a wheat wreath on his head, wheat ears in his right hand 
and a human head in his left hand. Christianity associates him with 
Saint George. 


Jezda or Jezi Baba - Wild woman goddess, the dark lady and 
mistress of magic. She is also seen as a forest spirit that leads hosts of 
spirits. Jezi Baba is portrayed as a witch who flies through the air in a 
mortar using the pestle as a rudder sweeping away the tracks behind 
her with a broom made out of human hair. She lives in a house that 
revolves around by means of three pairs of chicken legs that dance. 
Her fence outside was made with human bones that had skulls atop of 
them. The keyhole to her front door was a mouth filled with sharp 
teeth. She aids those who are pure of heart; and eat the souls of those 
that were not visiting her prepared and clean of spirit. She is said to be 
the Guardian Spirit of the fountain of the water of life. If she doesn't 
kill you, she can help you with advice and magical gifts. 


Kupala - Goddess of herbs, sorcery, sex, and midsummer. She is also 
the Water Mother, associated with trees, herbs, and flowers. Her 
celebration falls upon the Summer solstice. It was a sacred holy day 
honoring the two most important elements of Fire and Water. Kupalo 
is a male form of Kupala, and recognized in other Slavic regions. 
Kupalo is associated with Saint John, June 24th being his feast day. 


Lada - Goddess of harmony, merriment, youth, love and beauty. Her 
time is in the year of May; and is known as the Lady of the Flowers. 
Sacred to her is the linden and purple loosestrife. She is also the 
Goddess of order and manifested beauty. She is represented as a girl 
with a flower wreath on her head, dressed in white carrying flowers. 
She and her brother Lado are credited with creating the fertility of the 
greening world as they join May festivals in spirit with the people. 
They dance in each other's embrace, and each place their feet touch 
springs forth new flowers in full bloom. They are also lovers. 


132 



Lado - The God of marriage, mirth, pleasure and general happiness. 
The divine husband of Lada whom together they represent marriage, 
pleasures and happiness. He seems synonymous with the Spring 
fertility god Jarilo as Lada is with Jarila. Those soon to be married 
make sacrifices to him to ensure a satisfactory union. 


Marzanna - Polish goddess of death and winter. Her name comes 
from Slavic words meaning to "freeze" or "frozen," and is the meaning 
of the month of March. She was ritually burned and drowned yearly; 
effigies made with the last straw of last years' harvest, dressed in white 
with a broom and cycle. She is decorated with ribbons, myrtle, or 
woodruff and was carried in a procession of the people to a river. They 
burned and drowned her to rid themselves of the cold, dark season of 
death to welcome the spring. Both were necessary as Sun (fire) and 
Rainfall (water) were necessary for the fertility of the year's crops. In 
Christian times she is equated with Saint Maria, and is the consort of 
Dazbog, who is associated with Saint Ivan. On Saint Ivan's 
day(summer solstice again); Mary is said to bathe with together with 
Ivan in a ritual purification. Mary sits on a stone or a golden throne 
and sews, suggesting that she might be associated with fate and death. 
Mary is also associated with swans. 


Marzyana - Polish Goddess of the grain, presiding over harvest and 
can be comparable to Demeter. 

Matka Gabia - Polish Goddess of home, hearth, and patron of it's care. 

Miesiac - The Moon Deity; seen as both male and female. In both 
mythology of male and female deification, the moon is revered with 
the power to heal. As the Sun's wife (Dazbog's wife), she grows older 
during the winter and moves away from her husband, but to return to 
him in the Summer when her youth returns. She is the mother of the 
stars with Dazbog as well. In the mythology of the Moon being male, 
he is the Dazbog's bald uncle and consort of Dennitsa (Zorya Dnieca). 
Associated with the waxing and waning phases of dying but then being 
revived. In one myth, the Moon was married to a Sun Goddess but 
seduced Dennitsa. As punishment, Piorun struck his face, scarring him 
to account for the phases of the moon. In another version, his phases 
are his shame as he turns away from the Sun Goddess that was 
unfaithful to him. His festival seems to fall on midsummer’s day. 


133 



Mokosz - Goddess of home and hearth, and female occupations such 
as spinning, weaving and fate. She is called Mokusa also in Polish 
folklore, and at night, women would leave strands of fleece beside the 
stove in her honor. She is seen as the Goddess of fertility, bounty, as 
well as occult knowledge and divination. Her sacred day is Friday; and 
her feast day falls between October 25th and November 1st. One 
reference fixes this day to October 28th. She was offered vegetables, 
which was the focal point of the feast day. It was said that women who 
made satisfactory offerings would be helped with their laundry, 
denoting her as a Water Goddess. This is illustrated by the fact that 
rainfall is sometimes called "Mokosz's milk." In Christian times she 
became conflagrated with the Virgin Mary and Saint Paraskeva. She is 
sovereign over the Domowije and the patroness of midwifery. In one 
myth, she is the wife of Piorun, and was represented as a woman with 
a large head, long arms and unkept hair. In another myth she is wife of 
Swarog, which created a marriage of heaven and Earth. 


Oynyena Maria - Slavic "Fiery Mary," a fire goddess who assists 
and counsels the thunder God Piorun. 


Percunatel - A Polish goddess that seems to be Piorun’s own 
mother. 


Piorun - Pan-Slavic god of lightening, storm, thunder and war-like 
attributes, as he is the patron of nobility and armies. He is lord of the 
forest and mountains; and his sacred tree is the oak in Lithuania. He is 
also seen as a God of Justice and Law. He was represented as a man 
with silver hair and a golden mustache; armed with arrows and stones. 
Eight eternal flames, or bonfires, or torches accompanied his images. 
Any place where lightening struck was considered sanctified in the 
eyes of the Poles, as holy places of healing and power; as anything 
struck by lightening is said to have heavenly spark and fire still 
residing within. Piorun's sacrificial animals included roosters, bears, 
bulls, and he-goats. Consumption of these animals was believed to 
have the person absorb the essence of God, which parallels modern 
communion in Christianity. In Christianity he is also conflagrated with 


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Saint Elya (Elias), also the prophet Elijah (Feast days July 20th and 
July 21st). 


Porvata - A god of the woods; he has no idol or image; and is 
manifest throughout the primeval forest. His sacred day is Tuesday 
and is connected with midsummer. He is thought to be one of the four 
seasonal aspects of Swaitowid facing south and ruling over summer. 


Rod - a god of fertility and family, concerned with the continuation of 
bloodlines and the extension and glorification of clans. Rodzanica 
were female and represented the stars; were also spirits of birth and 
fate. Rod were male and stood for the ancestors. Since Rodzanica were 
present at the birth of babies, the birth parties were called Rozing. 
Those that honored the Rod/zanica, it was believed that all new births 
were reincarnations of passed ancestors. The elements of Fire and 
Water represented the bathhouse where women gave birth; and the 
magical properties of the stove where folk tales birthing takes place. 
Polish traditions of the celebration of the dead is on April 30th, the 
second being on October 31st. 


Siliniez - A wood god from Poland who moss was sacred; his altar 
fire was kept burning only with moss. 


Sorrowful God - The Sorrowful God is depicted in pre-history 
sculpture sitting with his head in his hand, peaceful and contemplative. 
He is representative of the mature elder Year God, unmasked, with the 
wisdom of a sage. 


Stribog - God and Spirit of the winds, sky and air; and is said to be 
the ancestor of the winds of the eight directions. 


Sudz - A Polish God of destiny and glory. Those born at the time 
when he strews gold in his palace are destined to be wealthy. When he 
scatters earthen clods, those born are destined for poverty. 


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Swaitowid - Creator God/dess represented with 2 male faces and 2 
female faces, corresponding with the seasons and directions. The white 
horse is his symbol, and at harvests honey bread was eaten in his 
honor. Literally translates to "Strong Lord." 


Swarog - Polish God and Spirit of fire; meaning bright and clear. So 
sacred was the fire that it was forbidden to shout or swear at it while it 
was being lit. Folklore communicates him as a fire serpent, a winged 
dragon that breathes fire. Other mythos describes him as a smith God, 
identified the generative and sexual powers of fire. He is the father of 
and divine light of celestial and Earthly fires. He is associated in 
Christianity with Saint Damian, Saint Cosmas, and Saint Micheal the 
Archangel. His animals are a golden horned ox, boar, horse, and a 
falcon named Varagna, as well as a shape-shifter into the wind. 


Syrena - A draconian snake goddess who protects the River Wisla 
and the Polish city of Krakow. 


Tawals - A blessing bringing God of the meadows and fields. 


Trishna - Goddess of corpses and the deceased. She protects graves. 

Triglav - A three-headed God associated with in some mythos as being 
the god of night and darkness, as well as Earth and Sky. He is the 
highest God of all said oracles at Szczecin, Poland, were interpreted 
from the behavior of a black horse. He is veiled completely, so holy 
that he cannot see the evil deeds of men. He rarely appears around 
mortals, and is depicted as a three-headed man with bands of 
blindfolds over his eyes. 


Weles - He is the God of cattle, music, poetry, and art. He was 
depicted with horns later, and became associated with flocks and herds 
as well as the underworld. He has many associations with wealth and 
the magical forces of the spirit world. Weles and Piorun were depicted 
as adversaries, and were worshipped separately from one another. He 
was the patron of oaths, death, divination, underworld, domestic 
animals and beasts and afterlife. His feast day is February 12th, but he 


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is also associated in Christianity with Saint Blaise(March 11th) and 
Saint Nicholas (December 6th) 


Zaria - Goddess of Beauty 


Zemina - earth Goddess 


Zewana - Goddess of hunting (see Dziewona) 


Zizilia - Goddess of love and sexuality 


ziota Baba - Polish "Golden Woman" a Goddess who received 
many sacrifices and gave oracles, depicted in gold. 


The Zorya - The Three guardian Goddesses, knows as the Auroras. 
They guard and watch over the doomsday hound that threatens to eat 
the constellation Ursa Minor, the little bear. If the chain breaks loose, 
the Universe is said to end. The Auroras of the Morning Star, Evening 
Star, and Midnight Star are depicted as Zwezda Dnierca - Zwezda 
Wieczomiaia, and Zwezda Polnoca. 


Zwezda Dnieca - Aurora of the Morning Star, married to the male 
aspect of the Moon; the maiden/warrior opens the Gates of Heaven for 
the Sun every morning to emerge. She is described as a fully armed 
warrior Goddess, courageous in temperament. The Slavs portrayed her 
each morning as the Sun rose; and is the patroness of horses, 
protection, and exorcisms and is associated with the planet Venus. She 
is invoked to protect against death in battle, and her prayers were 
addressed as "Defend me, O maiden, with your veil from the enemy, 
from the arquebus and arrow" 


Zwezda Wieczoniaia - Aurora of the Evening Star and mother of 
the Zoryas. She closes the Gates of Heaven each evening as the aged 


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Sun God returns from across the skies. She is patron of protection and 
exorcisms as well. 


Zwezda Polnoca - Aurora of the Midnight Star, the crone of the 
Zoryas. She is the Zorya of death to whom the Sun God returns to die 
but to be rejuvenated in her arms to live again in the morning. She is 
the patroness of death and rebirth, magic and wisdom. 


Zywie - Polish for "Life." She is the Goddess of health and healing, 
and her animal is the cuckoo, Friday is her sacred day. She is 
associated as the Spirit of the dead by the Elbe Slavs, and she seems to 
be the Goddess of regeneration and rebirth. 

The Dlugosz Olympus 

A possibly fabricated Polish pantheon, also known as the Kiev 
Pantheon, however some are related to actual deities that were a part 
of the older pantheon: 


Jesza, Iessa, Jessis - An early Slavonic God, a chief God equated 
to Jupiter in the Dlugosz Olympus. He is known as the "Heavenly Sky 
God" that is equivalent to the Celtic deity Esus. 


Kiev - A God in Poland recorded in the Dlugosz Olympus as being a 
sun and daylight God. He was invoked for hunting and against 
diseases. He is depicted with a dog's head and horns, suggesting a 
connection with Weles and hunting goes of other cultures. 


Lada - Dlugosz Olympus expresses her as the Slavic Mars. 


Lele, Polele - Portrayed in the Dlugosz Olympus as the sons and 
daughters of Lada, and also as Divine Twins that are comparable to the 
Greek "Castor." 


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Nija - God of the Dead associated with Pluto in the Dlugosz Olympus. 


Pogoda - Polish god of Fire, also mentioned in the Dlugosz Olympus 
as a god of weather. Also Slavic "Giver of Favorable Winds" a 
weather and agricultural goddess to whom sheep and cattle were 
sacrificed to. Comparable to the supernatural Spirit Dogoda. 


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